Silica is silicon dioxide, a naturally occurring and widely abundant mineral that forms the major component of most rocks and soils. Crystalline silica dust particles can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause illness and disease.

Stephen Jones outlines why it’s important for clients to focus on occupational illness and disease prevention and provides some examples of key health and safety initiatives that Sydney Metro are actively working on in this area.

Who is this seminar for?

This seminar is useful for PCBUs and WHS consultants or advisors in the construction and infrastructure sector.

Recommended viewing

Representatives from the same Sydney Metro project discuss their proactive measures to address silica dust in Staying ahead of the game – Controlling silica exposure in tunnel construction and Shifting perceptions and outcomes in occupational health and wellbeing.

About the presenter

Stephen Jones is the Executive Director of Safety, Sustainability and Environment at Sydney Metro.

Additional resources


Silica series: The role of the client in the WHS landscape

Presenter: Stephen Jones, Executive Director Safety Sustainability & Environment, Sydney Metro

Virtual Seminar Series - Transcript

Good afternoon everyone. From a Metro point of view, if we don't have the regulator, if we don't have our industry partners and ourselves actually aligned, we're never going to get to where we need to be.

From a client point of view, I just want to start with a really, really simple question, a five year old question, but it's like, why are we actually doing this? Now, certainly for me, it's really, really important. I think we have a moral obligation to basically, to drive that across our customers, our community, and our workforce. What I will say is that we talk about a tsunami of work that's coming to Australia, New South Wales, $70 billion worth of infrastructure work. Melbourne's doing the same. Brisbane's kicking off, New Zealand's there. For me, is that if we don't have a real focus on our people, we're never going to deliver this from our workforce. Again, we want to recruit people into our industry. We want to retain people into our industry and keep them here as long as we possibly can. If we're not going to look after them, what are we actually bothering for?

The second one is about economic considerations. Now, $2.9 billion, that is the cost each year for poor health within our industry. I reckon that's just the tip of the iceberg. I would say it's a lot more than that. When you consider the total cost of health and safety to the actual bottom line of Australia is in the region of $60 billion. I think there's a lot more than that. So again, if you look at it from a people point of view, you're looking at it from an economic point of view. There's a real clear argument. I don't really want to go down to the regulatory compliance, for me, that is just a given. It doesn't matter whether you're a tier one, tier two or wherever you want to work. That is the lowest bar possible as to actually how we do work in New South Wales.

But I suppose the big one for me is around legacy, is because if we always do what we've always done, we're always going to get what we've always got. Unless we actually change how we work, how we move forward and certainly from a Sydney Metro point of view, $20 billion worth of infrastructure, we have got to be doing something different to actually drive that outcome. And I think, quite legitimately, the taxpayer, the people of New South Wales actually demand that. And that's why we want to do something different in this space. Again, it's certainly a question that we always ask.

From a client point of view, I think the first question you got to ask is what type of client do you want to be? If you just want to be basically it's good enough, I want to walk away and basically do least in and maximum outcome. That's not what we certainly see ourselves at Sydney Metro. Certainly, our tagline is about striving, is about exceeding, and actually driving a different benchmark. It is about that legacy that we talk about. Again, from a client point of view, our first pillar of success is around safety. That is our number one priority. If it isn't safe, we don't do it.

Again, it is around how we actually deliver. Again, we’ve got about successful delivery. Yes it is about ... We've got $20 billion worth. We have to have a focus on the program. We have to have a focus on the commercials and actually the quality. But rather than health and safety just being some kind of bolt on, it's actually integrated into everything we do. We want a successful world-class Metro and again that is by bringing the highest standards, whether it's from New South Wales across Australia or internationally, what is the standard that we need to be working to, to set that new standard? Then a transformative legacy. This is something that's built into our DNA, it is about driving different outcomes to what we expect.

For me, and why we're here today really is that bottom line. It's around our ways of working. Again, customer centric, really, really important to whether you're our workforce, customer, community, everyone is at the centre of what we do. It is about values led. If we don't have that safety and wellbeing as a real value, we're never going to get to where we need to go. Again, all of our decisions, what we do is based around that key value. One team philosophy. Again, if we don't work together as an industry, regulator, a client and an industry partner, we're never going to get to where we need to go so events like this is really, really important.

Then the last thing is relationship matters. Again, you can have all of the best standards, you can have all the best contracts, but it is about relationships. For me, it's about understanding as a client, I'll be the first one and I will say if we're not doing something right, what's adding value? You come at me as hard as you want because by having that honest conversation, we can change things, not make things easier or simpler, but we can change things to make sure those obstacles are removed and we can actually drive it again, that different outcome. Again, that invitation, if you're working for Metro, you come at hard as us as you need to because we want make a change. By doing that, we will drive a different outcome for the people and for those projects.

One thing that we did do early on from a client point of view, is that we set a strategy. What I will say is that it's very, very built on the kind of pillars that you'd expect to see in any kind of corporate strategy. The first thing on there, and it's no mistake, is around leadership. Because without the leadership of the organisation that you represent, the project that you sit on, industry, nothing will happen. If you go back to your organisations, wherever you are, like you say, "Well, would it encourage that?" Everyone get engaged, make sure health and hygiene, as with Metro, is at the highest level.

Again, it is something that we drive consistently through our organisation and it gets that profile. I'll go back to me first question about the why. I've explained the social, economic, regulatory, legacy type of outcomes, what we deal ... but that's just one lens. If you look at our approach to chain of responsibility and heavy vehicles, whether you look at skills development, it's all around those three bottom line outcomes. Again, I say to my team, look at it all the time and I'd encourage everyone to look at it because when you do that, you get some really great outcomes. Again, this selling of this occupational health hygiene or the safety message, it is really easy once you've got that commercial outcome. Like you say, you're removing the obstacles because it makes good business sense.

Some of the initiatives that we've looked at. I talk about collaboration and relationships. It is about those relationships with SafeWork. It's probably a couple of things I want to call out. The first one is the work we're doing with RMIT. What we're doing today is what we're doing today, but that piece of work will look at how we actually embed higher order controls into our industry and that is for the next five to 10 years. So rather than just sit back on our laurels, we're actually challenging industry and we're going to be looking at how we make it easier.

Yep. How we move those obstacles, but how we get better effective controls in the field, where it actually matters. That's something that's going on. What I will say is that if anyone wants to be part of that, if anyone wants to have a look at that, you come back at us because again, the more industry buy in we get, the better the report and the better outcomes, again, that we drive. Please, feel free. Some of the challenges, again, for me, it's about the appetite to drive those social, economic, regulatory and legacy outcomes. How do we communicate and drive this? How do we actually make sure every man and woman is actually engaged? Every organisation is actually engaged and actually understands the value of what we're trying to do? Competing interests. Again, production is a big one.

Again, I'll go back to me rule number one is that if you're not a values-led organisation with people at the heart of everything you do, you're never going to get there. Again, you've got to focus on what is important to you as an organisation, and as a client and actually drive that and go as hard as you can to make that happen. Then I suppose for me, resourcing is a big one. It can be complicated and that's why we have people on board to actually undo the complications and all the rest of it and make it easy for us.

Again, and that's one of the things I think that we've tried to do really hard. We've tried to develop the systems where anyone can actually pick up and do those health risk assessments, whether it's a level one or level two, but actually you can actually take them away and actually embed them within your own parent organisation. That's where the value comes from it. Like I say, you've got some support that you can use from a client such as ourselves. We want to set you up to succeed. Again, really important to us.

Then the last thing for me is really about the opportunities. Applying a consistent approach. Create a level playing field. This industry is really good at doing things three, four, five, six, seven times, and all coming up with a different answer. What I would really like to achieve is that we'd actually do it once, do it really well and industry can actually take it away and use it. How great would that be? Again, because like I say, as a client I don't want to spend money, I want to make sure it's spent in the right places. I say we get maximum value from that. Again, that is a big challenge for us all.

Raise the awareness, really, really important of those risks. Again, like I say, rather than just kicking that $2.8 billion down the road every year and ... like I say, injuring our men and women who come to work on the projects and the programs, we actually deal with the issue now, that will only go one way, when you look at the amount of infrastructure and some of the legacy issues that we've got to do.

Again, reduce the incidence. For me I'm just going to finish off with just one thing. It is about it just makes good business sense. From a Metro point of view, if there's anything that we can do, if there's anything that we can help with, if you've got any goal that you can give us, let us know because that is the kind of stuff where again, it will feed into this working group. It will make a difference and then all of us will benefit from.

Thank you.

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