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Viewpoint - Together we can achieve Perfect Days

AGENDA - Contractors must stop being secretive about accidents, writes John Green

THE SAFETY record of our industry is always under scrutiny. Indeed, there is nothing like the glare of publicity to focus you on the task at hand.

At least so you would think. Perhaps the concentration is not as sharp if it is not your reputation that is being scrutinised.

More than ever before, the major players are managing rather than doing and this means more subcontractors are being used. This is fine, unless there is a fundamental difference in the values and behaviours of the organisations. If there is a difference, it brings with it a risk that can affect the reputation of the business ? health and safety.

It is fine to vet your subcontractors, to ensure that they have the required competency. But how do you ensure that their organisational values and individual behaviours fit the bill?

Everyone wants to get the job done, but it is how it is done that affects reputation. It is no good finishing on time and on budget if half your workforce is injured in the process and it is equally as bad if your customers are delighted with the finished product but it is four months late and over-budget. Somewhere there has to be a balance.

There is ? and it is called the Perfect Day, a concept we are advocating to our employees and subcontractors.

The Perfect Day means no accidents or customer issues and all operational targets met ? that is, remove anything from the day that anyone can possibly gripe about. In other words, we ask them to adopt our culture, or our way of thinking. That way, we might all benefit from a perfect day.

We do not subcontract our responsibility for safety.

Our policy is not making any compromises. Our subcontractors are expected to manage our reputation in exactly the same way as we would.

The best way to do that is to explain our way of doing things and then trust them ? empower them to do the job right.

We cannot force subcontractors to behave in a certain way, but just as we educate and train our own employees, so we try to show the subcontracting teams the best way to achieve a result safely. Ultimately, we have to show anyone working with us that we have faith in them to do the job right in the spirit of true partnership.

The traditional method of displaying safety performance is via the accident frequency rate. It is not perfect ? few stand-alone statistics are.

It is always best supplemented with other measures both reactive and proactive. Love it or hate it, the AFR is the measure everyone uses as the yardstick.

Using the old Dr William Edwards Deming phrase 'you can't manage what you don't measure', most organisations are measuring accidents in an attempt to manage the consequences and numbers.

Five years ago we decided to put our AFR into the public domain with the idea that public scrutiny would further focus our efforts to improve. It has worked, too. Over the past five years our AFR has fallen from 0.37 to the current level of 0.25, well below the sector average ? perhaps proving that public scrutiny does concentrate the mind.