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Safety at the sharp end

PILING

ROBERT Anderson and Tony Peacock are chargehands who have been with Stent 20 years and five years respectively.

They both became safety reps for the company earlier this year.

Stent has so far appointed 12 reps, each covering their specialised working areas.Mr Anderson covers largediameter piling while Mr Peacock's speciality is CFA piling.

Other reps cover areas such as sheet or driven piling, or the plant yard.

Mr Peacock admits that the reps had a few worries before taking on their new role.

'There were concerns about the legality of our position and whether we'd be held to account if there was an accident. But it's not about that, it's about looking out for the safety side of things.'

The reps send in safety audits every two weeks, commenting on areas such as welfare facilities, access, documentation and the state of the plant.

'In the report we write what we think, and who needs to take action. Copies go everywhere, ' says Mr Peacock.

Stent has given the men mobile phones so that they can take calls on safety matters.

'We're the middle men between the safety guys and the site lads, ' says Mr Peacock.

'If the lads aren't happy they can come to us, and we can have a word with the foreman.They can be a bit more anonymous if they want to be.'

Both men admit the idea of telling their boss what to do was a little daunting.

'Even if they don't act on it, when we tell them verbally, it goes into our reports, ' says Mr Peacock.

'All the foremen I've worked with have been very cooperative, ' adds Mr Anderson.'They've been told that they've got to work with us, and that helps.'

The men believe that while there was some muttering about the changing of the bonus to reward safety behaviour, the men do not think they're being shortchanged.

'During the year it averages out slightly higher, which gives us a bit of ammunition on site, ' says Mr Anderson.'If money is docked it really pulls people up. It adds to the peer pressure. But they can be rewarded too.'

The men say that their heightened awareness of safety issues is also impacting on how other companies work on site.

'This role makes you very aware of what's going on around you. I recently reported a scaffolder who hadn't put his netting up, ' says Mr Anderson.

There is, of course, the same pressure to get the job done quickly, particularly on busy city sites, but Mr Peacock doesn't believe that the safety procedures have slowed anything down.

'Some of the guys leave Stent, chasing more money. But they usually come back to us, ' says Mr Anderson.

'They tell us that while they could earn marginally more elsewhere, they're having to take more risks.'