YOLO initiative powers reduction in young worker injuries

Applying a psychological understanding of young people’s risk perception was critical to the success of this health and safety initiative in the energy sector.

An innovative psychology-based program is pioneering employee safety in Australia’s energy sector, achieving a 75 per cent decrease in injuries to young workers.

Queensland’s largest energy provider Stanwell Corporation developed the YOLO (You Only Live Once) Young Worker Safety Intervention after three apprentices were injured within a three month period at the company’s Stanwell Power Station site near Rockhampton.

Stanwell Health, Safety and Environment Corporate Cultural Specialist AJ Glazebrook, who holds a unique organisational psychology position in health and safety within the energy sector, said a review found young workers were not identifying and effectively controlling workplace hazards.

“We looked into it from a psychological point of view and realised that the workers are under 25,” she said.

“The part of their brain that assesses risk and would identify the hazard, and then look for a way to effectively control it, is not actually fully developed in humans under 25.”

Ms Glazebrook said the company designed and delivered the YOLO intervention, which was built on psychological principles, while also adding evidence-based safety tools for hazard management training.

Under the YOLO initiative, young workers, their mentors and supervisors participate in a two-hour interactive training session that enables participants to understand how the brain functions in young people while working to bridge the developmental gap.

Ms Glazebrook said the organisation also invited a speaker from the Paraplegic Benefit Fund to provide a first-hand account of the ramifications of a workplace accident.

“We had a gentleman come in who’s in a wheelchair and he talked to us about his accident and what happened and what life’s been like since,” she said.

“It’s a real link for our young people. That’s usually the point at which they say - ‘wow, it’s not just that I might have a bit of an accident at work and I might graze my knee, it’s actually that I could end up in a wheelchair or I could lose my life’.”

The YOLO program is now run annually for young workers beginning employment at Stanwell.

Ms Glazebrook said the initiative has delivered exceptional safety results since it was implemented in 2014.

“In the first year that we actually rolled out the intervention there were zero injuries for our young people, which was amazing, and at last check we were at a 75 per cent reduction.”

While the YOLO program has been specifically designed for the energy sector, Ms Glazebrook said the intervention has widespread application across sectors.

Ms Glazebrook said Stanwell has shared the safety initiative with a range of other organisations, and she hopes more employers will take it on board.

“We’re in the business of health and safety, and making sure our young people are safe and well, so we freely give away the information,” she said.

“We show others how we run the course, we give them the tools and we give them our power point slides - we give it away and allow them to create programs to run it for themselves.”

Stanwell’s YOLO intervention was recognised for its outstanding achievement and innovation in organisational psychology when it won the Australian Psychological Society’s (APS) inaugural Workplace Excellence Awards for Workplace Health and Wellbeing in 2015.

Ms Glazebrook said the accolade validated Stanwell’s use of a psychological approach to workplace safety.

“We’re actually able to look at the whys - why do people do things the way that they do, and then to make sure our programs are tailored to that,” she said.

“For us, it was real confirmation that our slightly different approach to people and health and safety is actually working, and is valued and recognised nationally.”