Sydney Water Annual Report 2009
Performance review: Developing a safe, capable, committed workforce
In May 2009, Sydney Water moved to a new environmentally sustainable head office in Parramatta.

In this section:

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Improving safety

Sydney Water is committed to protecting the health, safety and welfare of all staff, contractors and visitors. The goal is to provide a safe and efficient workplace with zero injuries.

In 2008–09, Sydney Water staff had no new lost time injuries from December to March and then again in May. This is a first for Sydney Water. For the full year, the total number of lost time injuries for staff was 18, two fewer than last year. This contributed to Sydney Water achieving a lost time injury frequency rate of 3.11.

Staff from the Maintenance and Operation divisions significantly contributed to the reduction of lost time injuries. Maintenance, which does most of Sydney Water’s high-risk work, reduced their lost time injuries for the year by three. The Operations Division had only one lost time injury.

In the same period, contractor lost time injuries increased from 16 to 28 and the lost time injury frequency rate went up from 2.09 to 3.62. Throughout the year, Sydney Water worked with contractors to improve safety. This included doing workplace inspections and audits, holding safety forums and setting up collaborative working arrangements.

The failure of a chemical storage tank and pipe during the year led to a review of chemical storage at all Sydney Water’s facilities. In a separate incident, a pipe failed at the Cronulla Sewage Treatment Plant in June and a staff member was seriously injured after being sprayed in the eyes with sodium hypochlorite. All chemical storage assets are being thoroughly inspected and their risk of failure assessed. It is expected that the review will be finalised in early 2009–10.

Improving the safety culture in Sydney Water is key to further reducing injuries. ‘Near miss’ reporting, management demonstrating safety leadership and staff involvement are key indicators of a good safety culture.

During the year, staff and contractors reported over 340 near misses, of which 26 were serious. The number reported reflects an increased awareness of the need to report incidents and to improve safety performance.

Management focus on safety is measured through leadership activities with targets set for each division. In 2008–09, Sydney Water’s managers exceeded targets by over 50%.

Key risks in Sydney Water are those associated with hazards that have the potential to cause serious harm. Some of the most critical key risks include electrocution, falls, working on or near water, manual handling, asset isolation, flow management and driving.

This year, Sydney Water updated its Health and Safety Management System to include procedures for:

  • manual handling
  • chemical management
  • flows or isolating assets
  • motorised boats
  • electricity
  • excavation
  • noise protection.

During 2008–09, Sydney Water continued its campaign to reduce illness in winter by supplying about 720 staff with a free flu vaccination. In April 2009, the World Health Organisation announced it was raising the Influenza Pandemic Alert Level to Phase 4 for the H1N1 Influenza (Swine Flu) outbreak. Sydney Water immediately implemented its Pandemic Emergency Response Plan by:

  • stockpiling personal protective equipment
  • arranging more frequent cleaning of common areas
  • making arrangements for critical staff to work at home if required
  • updating business continuity plans.


Giving Through Safety Program

By staying safe, Sydney Water staff and contractors raised over $247,000 for 27 charities through its 2008–09 Giving Through Safety Program.

The program provides incentives for staff to adopt safe working practices by linking safety targets to charity donations. It aims to encourage a stronger safety culture so staff do not get hurt.

By reaching safety targets, teams can earn up to $10,000 for a charity of their choice.

Teams are encouraged to select a charity that means something to them. Many teams select charities that staff have been involved with. This creates a personal incentive to stay safe and raise money.

Since the program began in January 2007, injuries have been steadily dropping and incident reporting has improved.

Giving Through Safety cheque presentation to Canteen

Giving through Safety cheque presentation to Canteen

Developing capability for the future

In 2008–09, Sydney Water’s focus continued to be on improving workforce capability. Competency programs, training and development, apprenticeships and traineeships, a graduate program and external scholarships are all part of the strategy to skill and renew the workforce.

Sydney Water does not directly employ apprentices and trainees as it hosts them through an external group training organisation. All apprentices work in the Maintenance Division and complete their formal training through TAFE NSW. Every six months, apprentices rotate jobs and work locations.

Sydney Water took on four mechanical and two electrical apprentices this year, keeping the total at 24 apprentices. Six apprentices were appointed to permanent positions.

This year, for the first time, Sydney Water welcomed four new water industry trainees who are working to complete their Certificate III in Water Operations. Over their two-year traineeship, they complete six-month rotations in business areas including Maintenance, Civil Delivery, Monitoring Services and Treatment Operations.

Trainees gain skills in excavation, water main repairs, clearing sewer lines and electrical safety for mains to meter work.

In October 2008, Sydney Water won the 2Discover Best Graduate Intake Program Award at the Australian HR Awards. Sydney Water invests about $4 million a year in its graduate program to identify and develop future talent. Applications for graduate positions increased from 1,500 in 2007–08 to 2,280 in 2008–09. This year, Sydney Water recruited 38 graduates.

Graduates must be in the program for at least two years before they are eligible to be placed in a permanent role. In 2008–09, 23 graduates secured permanent positions.

Sydney Water continued to sponsor external scholarships at the University of New South Wales, University of Technology Sydney (UTS), University of Sydney and the University of Western Sydney. A new scholarship was introduced for a final year Civil Engineering student at UTS. All scholarship holders complete work experience at Sydney Water.


First woman to become a Water Operations trainee

Sydney Water welcomed its first woman to become a Water Operations trainee, Rachel Cowin, in early 2009. The traineeship involves working across a range of Sydney Water business units and gaining on the job training in the water industry. By the time Rachel completes her traineeship she will be trained in constructing pipes, maintaining assets and monitoring water, and will understand how treatment plants operate.

‘My first six months with Sydney Water was spent digging holes. But as I progress through my traineeship I am starting to really learn about the water system. I am laying and excavating water mains, connecting old main taps to the new main and getting involved in restoring construction sites.

‘I love how there is such variety in the different activities we do. That was one of the aspects that initially attracted me to the traineeship – getting to work outdoors and getting my hands dirty.

‘I’m also enjoying the fact that I am doing a traineeship. Sydney Water is giving me lots of opportunities and practical experience while I’m learning about the water industry. I think this is really useful because I would like to further my studies and do a Civil Engineering degree at university. I am also really thankful that I have such great trainers and mentors who are very knowledgeable and are helping guide me to build the foundations of the rest of my career.’

Women make up 27% of staff and work in a wide range of roles. Through the Women @ Work program, Sydney Water is committed to promoting equal opportunities for women by:

  • identifying and acting on matters affecting women in the workplace
  • increasing employment equity
  • providing information and development opportunities.

Rachel Cowin – first woman to become a Water Operations trainee

Rachel Cowin - first woman to become a Water Operations trainee

Working in modern and more sustainable accommodation

In 2008–09, Sydney Water continued its focus on improving accommodation for staff and consolidating its property to reduce surplus operating costs. Over the past five years, Sydney Water has generated about $260 million in revenue from property sales as new sites are commissioned. This includes the sale of the old head office in the Sydney CBD for $140 million, the sale of land in Potts Hill as well as the rationalisation of multiple depots and offices in the Illawarra and across Sydney.

A number of major accommodation projects got underway in 2008–09. Overall, about 2,000 staff moved into modern, open plan and environmentally sustainable buildings, aimed at achieving a five-star green rating. Emphasis was placed on how to co-locate groups to improve overall efficiency in operations.

In May 2009, staff from the old head office and three other locations moved to the new head office in Parramatta. The new open plan building provides a modern and environmentally sustainable workplace.

Brookfield Multiplex owns the new building and Sydney Water rents office space at a rate significantly less than in Sydney’s CBD. The development of the Parramatta office, to accommodate 1,400 staff, cost $9.2 million for furniture and equipment and $2 million for removalists. A further $27 million was spent on control systems and telephony.

Other major accommodation projects completed in 2008–09 included:

  • relocating the Contact Centre to new, modern facilities in Liverpool
  • refurbishing the Miranda depot for Civil Maintenance staff
  • building a new St Marys depot for around 200 staff from Maintenance and Trade Waste
  • relocating to a new office in Coniston for staff working in the Illawarra region
  • building a new depot in Seven Hills to service growth areas in the north-west.

Sydney Water also made significant progress on a new depot at Daceyville, and redeveloping the Potts Hill reservoir site into a state-of-the-art field headquarters and warehouse for around 450 office and field staff. Both developments are due to be completed by the end of 2009.

These new or renovated buildings all feature improved open plan office and meeting areas, and greater emphasis on environmental sustainability through reduced water and energy use.


New environmentally sustainable head office in Parramatta

Sydney Water’s new head office in Parramatta leads by example in environmental sustainability. The building has a five-star rating under both the Green Building Council of Australia’s ‘Green Star’ scheme and the NABERS Energy Rating. It will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 30% and use at least 75% less drinking water than equivalent commercial buildings.

The building has solar heating panels, energy efficient sensor lighting and an innovative chilled beam air conditioning system to reduce energy use. This will help move Sydney Water closer to its target of carbon neutrality for energy and electricity use by 2020.

A highlight of the building’s environmental features is an on-site wastewater recycling system, which produces recycled water to be used for toilet flushing, cooling towers, fire system testing and irrigation.

The recycling system, together with a 100,000-litre rainwater tank, significantly reduces the need to use drinking water for the 17-level building. Overall, the new building is expected to use just 10% of the drinking water that was used at the Bathurst Street site, saving about $56,000 a year.

Rooftop at Parramatta head office

Rooftop garden at Parramatta head office

Engaging our workforce

In 2008–09, Sydney Water had over 3,150 staff. Turnover initiated by staff was 3.3% which was lower than the 2007–08 rate of 4.9%.

Sydney Water expected to lose a significant number of staff when it moved to its new head office in Parramatta in May 2009. However, to date only a small number of staff have resigned. This was largely due to the actions taken to reduce the impact of the move and the slowdown in the job market associated with the global financial crisis. Sydney Water consulted staff on all aspects of the move including interior design and furnishings and made childcare arrangements for staff.

Going forward, Sydney Water has identified its key areas of strength to reinforce to help retain staff. These are:

  • Staff development and career opportunities
  • Leader in the water industry
  • Environmentally conscientious organisation
  • Key behaviours.

In 2008–09, Sydney Water used leadership, people management and communication activities to help embed the key behaviours of honesty, teamwork, achievement driven and personal responsibility.

The 2009 Your Say Staff Survey showed an improvement in these behaviours. Sydney Water will develop a program for further improvement in 2009–10.

Sydney Water continued to use its ‘Make a splash’ promotion to attract new staff. The four themes used to attract staff are:

  • staff development and career opportunities
  • work-life balance
  • environmentally conscientious organisation
  • leader in the water industry.

In March 2009, Sydney Water was granted silver flexible workplace accreditation from Managing Work/Life Balance International and won the following awards:

  • 2008 Diversity@Work Award for Work/Life Balance
  • 2008 Diversity@Work Employment and Inclusion Award for Women in Leadership.

Sydney Water continued to participate in the Australian Water Association working group to create a national industry brand, ‘H2Oz Careers in Water’. The campaign had an initial launch in March 2009, with the full launch planned for October 2009 to coincide with Water Week.

In early 2008–09, staff performing operations and maintenance functions across Sydney Water were reorganised into Operations and Maintenance divisions. Sydney Water’s previous structure had served it well and a review found that combining all operating and maintenance business units could improve service to customers.

A two-year partnering program between Operations and Maintenance started in November 2008 to drive this change. In a series of partnering workshops, staff are working out how they can better coordinate day-to-day operations and maintenance functions.

The Sydney Water website contains more information on this topic.