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Work Health and Safety should be dependable, like the best friend you can call at midnight. This phrase best describes Lauren Meldrum, the 2017 Young WHS Leader of the Year. 

At the second annual Hunter Safety Awards, Lauren grabbed the highly-coveted chrome safety helmet trophy, which had been sponsored by Lifestyle Cleaning Services.

Lauren goes for a WHS that’s proactive. Over the past years she has helped and guided the development and implementation of many changes in her workplace.

Lauren is the current HSEQ Manager at Reliance Hexham. The company specialises in the design, manufacture, overhaul, testing and repair of equipment and machinery for use in the mining, aluminum, and steel processing industries.

Lauren has been working at Reliance Hexham Pty Limited for over 10 years, since she was 19 years old. Ever since she became a part of the team she has always offered suggestion for improvement and change, in line with the company values and direction. Due to her passion and commitment in all aspects of the business, she’s able to contribute to, and be involved in, every area from safety and quality to administration and production.

“I suppose you could say safety sort of chose me. I started with Reliance Hexham in 2006 as a trainee administration assistant and over the years my role has evolved as the company has grown,” Lauren said.

“I took an interest in safety because my husband is an industrial electrician, which is a higher risk job, and I was always concerned about what he and his employer were doing to make sure he didn’t get hurt, this made me think about my workplace and what we could do better to ensure our employees got home safe too. I find it really rewarding to know that what I do has a positive impact on people’s lives.”

One of the best things she helped implement in the workplace is the company’s Get Healthy at Work program, which aims to ensure that their workers physical and mental health are looked after just as much as their safety. The company provides information on healthy eating and importance of physical activity as well as other various activities throughout the year such as flu shots, eye examinations, and step challenges.

Along with the Get Healthy at Work program came the implementation of the workplace fitness facility (on-site gym), which many staff members and their families take advantage of regularly each week.

For Lauren, working in a small business has enabled her to work closely with management to ensure health and safety are a priority within the business and adequate resources are allocated.

“I believe knowledge is power. I like to pass on information, knowledge and experience (either my own or from someone else) to the workers and management. By doing this and allocating appropriate resources and training it will equip the individuals to be able to ensure the health and safety of themselves and others,” Lauren said.

“It was such an honour to be a finalist in 2016 so when I found out I had won this year it was a bit overwhelming! I was not able to attend the gala night, but Ian, my Managing Director, attended and accepted the award on my behalf. He sent me a photo of the award - but it was from the side and you could not see the name. I thought he was joking and had taken a photo of someone else’s award but then he sent me a photo of the certificate and I couldn’t believe it! It felt great to get validation from professionals within the industry that I was doing a good job.”

For the 2017 Young WHS Leader of the Year, continuous learning is a key to ensuring the health and safety of staff in the workplace. Whenever possible, Lauren watches webinars, attend presentations or seminars, and participates in industry safety meetings. These help her to know industry best practices and new ideas being implemented successfully by others.

“I believe learning and self-development are a never ending process,” Lauren added. “There is always something new that can be done.”

“For example, ergonomics and occupational sitting have been a big focus recently. I believe they will continue to be in the spotlight as new technologies and ideas are developed. Technology is definitely the future of WHS, new software and applications are constantly being developed to aid in the management of WHS as well as risk elimination and mitigation.”

“I am hopeful that the future will see more companies see the value in committing to prioritising WHS to provide the safest workplace possible. This would mean more practical safety KPIs for management personnel rather than being so paperwork focused, holding safety as a higher priority than production, providing managers with more training so they are better equipped to handle various situations and are better aware of their responsibilities.”

If you would like to enter the 2018 Hunter Safety Awards, please click here!