It’s not the most encouraging of starts. Just seconds after beginning a rescue of the occupants of a car involved in a train crash and already the first of the rescuers has gone down, killed by toxic gas billowing out of one of the wagons.
Ten minutes later, and fortunately no further casualties, the ‘dead’ rescuer is being asked what he felt went wrong, and what he would do differently the next time.
Welcome to security and logistics specialist Wilson James annual employee health and safety competition.
The event, at Royal Logistics Corps Training Centre at Grantham, Lincolnshire, aims to give the firm’s staff a better understanding of the risks that they face in their day to day roles, which includes -providing support to some of the UK’s major construction projects.
Wilson James managing director Gary Sullivan explains: “It started because, although we had a number of safety behaviour programmes such as Incident and Injury Free running in the business, we found that they were not having as much of an effect as we had hoped and we wanted to improve quicker.
“How do we get that message across? Coming from a military background, we had an idea that learning should be fun, so that you create and promote a desire to learn within our firm.
“We want people to want to learn rather than feeling it is something they are forced to do,” says Mr Sullivan.
The result is a full day competition where teams from across the company take part in a series of exercises to test their safety understanding.
Sense of competition
These included a fire and first aid incident - the train crash - as well as command tasks, teamwork challenges, a health and safety quiz and a session on health and safety best practice where attendees are asked to come up with ideas that can help Wilson James improve its safety performance across the business.
“The tasks are relevant to what we do as a business, but the military environment takes them out of their comfort zone, increasing the sense of competition,” says Mr Sullivan.
He adds that the firm had already started to implement changes in the business as a result of some of the ideas that came out of the best practice sessions.
But the proof of the pudding is surely in the eating. The most recent competition was in September last year. How have the benefits been felt on the ground by those who attended?
Ready for the real thing
“One of the companies we work alongside had an incident at Heathrow and one of our guys had to give first aid and guide the emergency services to the scene.
“In basic terms it required the same skills as the incident task during the competition. He didn’t do too well when it was an exercise but he learned, and when it came to the real thing he was ready and got it right. He didn’t make the same mistakes”.
The competition has now proved to be a victim of its own success, with staff members already trying to sniff out leads on what this year’s event will involve to try and steal a march on rivals in other parts of the business.
“We are raising the bar each time, and next year we may open it up to clients and other companies. It will be interesting to see how we compare to those who we work with,” says Mr Sullivan.
For more details see www.wilsonjames.co.uk