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Designing for Inclusion

04 JANUARY 2023

By changing and improving the ergonomic design of equipment and facilities, former site physio Peta Pulford hopes to reduce the amount of injuries on site. Peta is a safety Specialist at our South32 Worsley Alumina operation in the South West of West Australia.

This year Worsley Alumina announced the inaugural Worsley Inclusion Awards (WIN). These Awards recognised people in our business who are going above and beyond to create an inclusive work environment for all. Today we're pleased to share WIN Award Nominee Peta’s story.

Above: Peta Pulford at the Worsley Alumina Refinery

During her four years as a physio at the Refinery, Peta became disheartened knowing that many people she had treated would likely be exposed to a similar injury again.

She approached the engineering team and asked them to consider improving the ergonomic design of new piping and valves to suit all employees of various physical abilities.

“When workplaces started to increase diversity in the workforce some years ago, I think it was under-appreciated that we would need to ensure plant and equipment could be operated by people with varying physical capabilities,” Peta said.

“I was seeing sprains, strains, and tennis elbow, it was frustrating knowing that I was sending them back to a work environment where the same thing could possibly happen again.

“In some cases, repetitive strain injuries had been slowly developing and in other cases, people left their jobs because they didn’t feel they could perform the physical requirements of the role.

“There was also the double-edged sword of those who were more physically capable can end up doing more of the workload to help colleagues, and in the end, they would be doing too much and be injured too.

“If we don’t make the workplace more appropriate, these injuries will keep happening so by designing a workplace that is easier to use, we are allowing opportunities for a greater diversity of people than before.”

Over the past two years, Peta has attended project meetings to discuss and review designs and to identify and justify improvements.

Her feedback has included the heights and angles of pipes, valves and other equipment, automation of valves, the application of stairs, ladders and elevators, trolley designs, placement of kickplates and access points.

She has worked with Engineering to update one of the design standards for the heights of pipes and valves and hopes to assist with more design standards in the future, as part of her new role as a Safety Specialist at the Mine.

“It’s not typical to have a physio at these meetings but the engineering team has been very open to me coming along and considering different design options,” Peta said.

“So far the improvements are in only parts of an area and some projects are still being designed and not built yet, but I anticipate that we will see a reduction in the numbers and severities of injuries in those areas.”