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How small steps can make a big difference

At a time when director leadership and employee engagement are key priorities, many of the teams presenting to us scored immediate brownie points by the inclusion of main board directors and operational staff. And they weren’t a token presence. We heard real, substantial (and in some cases unrehearsed) contributions from a ganger, a site manager, an engineer, project managers and main board directors; excellent demonstrations of safety ownership at all levels.

In the small company category it was a pleasant surprise to see how much they were doing which mirrors the bigger companies’ approaches. Director safety tours, near miss reporting, employee safety newsletters and straight forwardly branding their safety procedures and initiatives were common to a number of finalists, especially Midas Group, United House and GB Building Solutions.

A substantial commitment to worker engagement was seen with Warings Contractors, which ceased operations, company-wide, for four hours during European Safety Week to deliver a dedicated safety awareness session. Another good example of worker engagement was Brown & Mason’s Safety Initiative and Stop Card Schemes. Using a points scheme the workforce are rewarded (with Argos vouchers when three safety points are accrued) and punished (with disciplinary action when three cards are issued) as appropriate; the staff shaped the scheme and implement it, rather than it being a safety department procedure.

Alumet System’s heavy investment in new equipment and continuous emphasis on designing out risk were impressive, as was its head office open day, where clients could see the strides being made in safety. 

With the larger companies, behavioural safety programmes were prevalent. In a refreshing change to off the peg products, Mansell Constrruction Services’ workforce had designed theirs, tailored to their experiences and their business, and assisted in its delivery.

Communication was also a strong theme. Balfour Beatty Engineering Services profiled a high quality and hard hitting DVD they had produced for staff on electrical safety. Meanwhile, Morrison Utility Services has expanded its highly successful animated story books illustrating in simple terms its safe systems of work. And Skanska’s “live on site” training courses demonstrating safe working was thought to be especially valuable in ensuring workers understand how a task is to be undertaken safely.

Substantial pre-start planning for emergencies and rescues, and recognition of the risks specific to working in a live airport environment paid dividends for Ferrovial Agroman, at the T5 Transfer Tunnel project.

BAM Nuttall’s sincere attempts to not just preserve but to actually extend the lives of its workers were seen with examples of site gyms, free bicycles for those willing to cycle to work, and medical screening.

These companies and the initiatives they presented to us provide some great examples of how small steps can make a big difference to the industry’s safety performance. I hope their efforts and achievements inspire you to consider adopting them in your business.

Madeleine Abas is a partner at Osborn Abas Hunt and the founding member and chair of the Health and Safety Lawyers Association