Conecta Interviews Health & Safety Expert, Sarah Cuscadden from Probuild Constructions

We spoke to Sarah Cuscadden, former Group Manager of Health, Safety and Environment at Probuild Constructions, member of their executive board, and workplace health and safety expert of 15 years.

What makes someone choose a career in Occupational Health and Safety? 

Sarah says it’s all because she wanted to be part of the solution, not someone dealing with the end result of the problem.

Sarah had originally planned to study Occupational Therapy but being the person to ‘fix’ a problem just didn’t inspire her. Instead, she wanted to be part of ‘preventing’ an incident from occurring in the first place. This goal inspired her to instead study Occupational Health and Safety.

Sarah had her first break at Multiplex during work experience, after which she was invited to be part of the team permanently. What transpired from here has been an exceptional career in Workplace Health, Safety & Environment which saw her elevated to Group Manager HSE at Probuild Constructions.

With Probuild keen to shake up the traditional perspective of workplace safety when Sarah first stepped into the role, she was given free reign to investigate how to improve the safety of their people on and off the job.

Sarah engaged psychologists and communication experts to help better understand what was going on on-site. How were safety problems overlooked? Why wasn’t it enough to teach WHS best practice and then see better implementation and compliance in the workplace? Why were accidents still occurring?

The outcome of her detailed research uncovered a missing link:
The state of employees’ mental health and wellness directly correlated to reduced or increased risk on site.

What this means is that if an employee is tired, distracted, or has a lot of stuff going on inside their head, the likelihood of overlooking (or just not noticing) site hazards was greatly increased. Stress and long hours also play a role in safety on site.

Sarah and her team have since worked together and used these findings to instil a workplace culture that is considerate and responsive to the needs of mental stability. Sarah introduced the ‘Building Safety Greatness’ initiative company wide, which was recognised by the Institute of International Communications and received the 2018 Game Changer Award.

Probuild prioritises its employees’ welfare and has cultivated a culture of prevention rather than recovery. Sarah’s strategy involves talking with individuals to understand what is important to each team across different levels. Their workplace safety pillars now include care, courage and pride, which also act as the guiding principles for the entire workforce.

Built on the back of this strategy, Probuild recently launched their COVID Safe Plan, another must-must have program to tackle not only physical safety at work, but also feeling safe at work during the current pandemic.

We all know there’s long work days in this industry, so Sarah herself manages her mental health by prioritising exercise and breaking up her day into manageable pieces. She knows it’s not always possible to fit everything in to one day and that’s ok. She’s also big on communicating with her peers about how she’s feeling and remaining open and candid.

Sarah’s work continues to focus on rewriting the ‘boys don’t cry’ narrative across this male skewed industry. She uses her research and voice as an expert to create preventative measures and sustainable guidelines for individuals in the sector to relate to and work by.

You. can hear Sarah speak about incivility in the workplace here: Managing Incivility in the Workplace

You can learn more from Sarah via her blog: In Her Boots

You can listen to our full interview here.

Sarah is a champion for work safety awareness inside the construction sector and a genuine WHS change-maker and we’re eagerly waiting to see what she delivers next.

If you are experiencing concerns, you are not alone.

Resources & supporting bodies: 
Mates in Construction
Blue Hats

3 million Australians live with anxiety or depression – Beyond Blue
12.5% of construction workers substance use (highest industry) – pg 5

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