Workbridge, where abilities equal employment.

Productivity increase follows employment

Pacific Helmets

Pacific Helmets management had initial reservations about interviewing Workbridge jobseeker Mark Hood, who only has one arm – but the decision has resulted in an increase in productivity and boosted the company's profile.

Mark has skills as a sheet-metal worker, panel beater and welder but had been working largely in labouring jobs after losing his right arm in a motorcycle crash. However, following a work-related injury in 2012 he had to go onto ACC and was struggling to find work.

He signed up with Workbridge, and employment consultant Jan Lawton put his name forward to the Wanganui-based company which makes a wide range of helmets for the Pacific and international markets.

Despite some misgivings, the operations manager agreed to interview Mark and he was offered a position, starting in February 2013. After successfully doing a range of jobs at the factory, Mark asked to try out in the cut-and-sand shop drilling and trimming raw helmets. He took to the work very quickly but found it put a lot of strain on his good arm.

Workbridge successfully applied to the Ministry for Social Development for funding for a modified motorised workstation.

The resulting unit, complete with a foot pedal for speed control and an emergency stop, allows Mark to work as fast, if not faster, than able-bodied colleagues. Other staff can also use the workstation and productivity has risen.

The company also gained significant positive publicity as a finalist for the 2014 Attitude ACC Employer Award which recognises companies which work alongside disabled employees to help them achieve their career aims.

Jan Lawton said Pacific Helmets is "wonderful to work with" valuing all its staff and looking beyond Mark's disability to the person and the skills he has to offer.

Mark said he is happy in his work and proud of the company. "Doing this job is so satisfying, as you're putting a product out there which is saving people's lives."

The unit … allows Mark to work as fast, if not faster, than able-bodied colleagues.

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