Hands on Safety
It’s hard not to take our hands for granted. Whether we’re texting on our phone, driving or working, we often don’t give them a second thought. Yet the instant our ability to use our hands and fingers is taken from us, we become acutely aware of how much we need them. That’s exactly what KAEFER team members in Australia experienced first-hand. As part of the Safe Hands Campaign that took place in April 2022, KAEFER employees worked in small teams to construct a prosthetic hand for people in need around the world. The challenge: doing it with their dominant hand immobilised. The idea was to experience just how difficult it can be to work without the use of your left or right hand and to highlight the plight of disadvantaged people, who have to overcome this challenge every day. It also served as an effective reminder to take care of hands and fingers in the context of daily work.
Lending a hand
The sessions involved both team coordination and problem solving, as the groups of three had to use clear communication and discussion to construct a prosthetic hand from a set of parts using detailed instructions, whilst their dominant hands were immobilised. “Building the prosthetics was an idea that came from Melissa Vainu, HSE Superintendent – Access Contract at Olympic Dam (a remote BHP site in South Australia) who had heard about the concept and sent me a note about it,” Roy Abraham, HSEQ Manager – Eastern Australia, explains.
“The idea to promote the Helping Hands Campaign came from a desire to implement learning that is engaging and genuine,” Vainu says. “Not only does it promote a practical element that literally forces the participants to recognise what life could be like if they were to sustain a serious hand injury, but it also allows them to be a part of something very special, as the prosthetic hands built in this activity are donated to those impacted by the loss of their hand.” Abraham adds that there was a great deal of engagement from the participants: “as we worked our way through the sessions, energy levels began to rise and there was much discussion and interaction. They were so excited to talk about their own experiences and reflect upon what they had done, and ultimately it resonated with them just how important it was to always look after their hands, as life without them was devastating.”
The finished products were donated to people in developing countries who had lost hands or limbs to accidents, illness or landmines, for example. Participants were also able to decorate the carrying cases and write a message on a greeting card for the recipient. For participant Gareth Calder, Senior Supervisor at KAEFER, “the Safe Hands Campaign has been the highlight of the year for me, knowing that the hands we built were going to assist others in developing countries, which made me proud of getting involved. You never know when a helping hand will change another person’s entire life.”
Hand on heart
Hand and finger injuries are widespread across industries around the world. As part of KAEFER’s safety culture, it is essential to tackle this head on and develop an initiative to highlight hand safety and reduce injury. “We had two main activities for the Safe Hands Campaign,” Abraham outlines. “One was building the prosthetics and the other involved employees painting their hands in the colours of our SMART Choice programme and placing them on a banner with their name and the reason why they want to take care of their hands.” This single-minded campaign, which also included posters, quizzes, fact sheets, presentations and hand exercises, was executed across all project sites in Australia with over 300 KAEFER employees at 12 sites taking part in the prosthetic hand build.
Clients were also encouraged to join in. This initiative ties in to KAEFER Australia’s exceptional performance in health and safety. “Our colleagues Down Under have shown exceptional commitment to protecting employees,” says Head of Corporate Health, Safety & Environment, Michael Sturm. “Successful implementation of the team-based SMART Choices cultural programme has further improved line management as well as employee engagement and continuing high performance in health and safety has led to the region being awarded the Best Safety Cultural Programme 2021 at the KAEFER International Management Meeting.”
Enthusiasm was high for all elements of the Safe Hands campaign, which led to an increased appreciation for hand and finger safety. But what had the most impact upon the participants was not just the challenges involved with being limited to using just one hand, but also the stories of the amputees whose lives were changed by the Helping Hands Programme. From young children in India who had suffered accidents to adults who had waited their whole lives for support in overcoming their challenges, these prosthetics brought help, hope and a new sense of self-worth, all while raising awareness on the other side of the world of how important our hands truly are in all aspects of our lives.