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Health & Safety Excellence: Winner

Winner: Abbey Pynford Geo Structures

In a category with a number of excellent entries, geotechnical engineering specialist Abbey Pynford Geo Structures emerged head and shoulders above the competition.

Led by managing director Lewis O’Connor, the firm has sought to transform health and safety in the risky basement construction sector – an area that has been under the spotlight in recent years, particularly in London.

Mr O’Connor created a detailed training matrix to ensure all staff received comprehensive training and were conscious of risks, raising awareness among his workforce about best practice.

Abbey Pynford Geo Structures has increased its spending on training from £2,500 in 2013 to £37,000 in 2015 – a huge rise and indicative of the contractor’s commitment to its workforce. This is also highlighted in the fact that one employee who had left the company came back shortly after departing because of its exceptional safety culture.

The firm also undertook significant research and development to improve its systems and create safer and more efficient ways of working underground. In particular, it developed a new soil stabilisation technique and a new piling system, both of which have resulted in safer working.

“This company has transformed health and safety in its particular sector – and the lessons learned have the potential to improve safety across the entire industry. A deserved winner”

Judges’ comment

In addition, the firm has instigated a policy of never going beyond 3.5 m in a single excavation, which has resulted in the development of a design philosophy for two-stage underpinning to be used on deeper excavations.

The company’s efforts have seen safety incidents fall from 14 in 2014 to five in 2015, despite a 65 per cent increase in turnover.

Mr O’Connor’s role has been crucial in Abbey Pynford Geo Structures’ progression. His vision and drive have been the main force behind the firm’s improvements in basement health and safety.

Backed by CITB funding, Mr O’Connor has co-written a set of guidelines for the construction of below-ground structures that are awaiting HSE approval; he is also working on new guidance for underpinning.

In addition, he has submitted a proposal to the CITB to create a new bespoke training course for managing safety on basement and underpinning schemes, which would be the first of its kind for the industry.

The judges described Abbey Pynford Geo Structure’s entry as “stunning”, saying: “This was an incredibly enthusiastic presentation from a visionary MD that presented innovation after innovation.

“This company has transformed health and safety in its particular sector – and the lessons learned have the potential to improve safety across the entire industry. A deserved winner.”

Highly commended: AR Demolition

2014 winners AR Demolition were again recognised by our judges as leaders in safety standards, showing a “consistently strong commitment to health and safety” from management downwards.

The demolition specialist has continued to invest in training and improvements to plant, ensuring the safety of its workforce is the number one concern.

In addition, improving health has been a particular focus this year, with the company providing Bupa healthcare to all employees free of charge, as well as offering them diet coaching – also free of charge.

“The passion of AR Demolition’s leadership shines through,” our judges said.


  • Cantillon
  • Cemex
  • Mabey Hire
  • Morrison Utility Services
  • Novus Property Solutions
  • Stihl GB

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