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ZAP leads in accident prevention

The ECA’s safety initiative has led to a dramatic reduction in accidents

The outcome of the Construction Summit called by the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott in 2001 was that the industry agreed a step change in safety performance. It got the Electrical Contractors Association (ECA) thinking and the result was its Zero Accident Potential initiative – ZAP.

“The Prescott conference kicked things off, but we weren’t pushed into doing this. We wanted to play our part in it,” says Paul Reeve, ECA’s health, safety and environmental manager.

The ECA represents 2,800 companies of all sizes which have a collective turnover of more than £5 billion and 30,000 employees.

Thus it was important to get everyone involved. “Even in 2001 they were more focused on electrical safety than health and safety,” Mr Reeve says.

But when the initiative was launched it wasn’t easy to convince everyone of its simplicity. “It was about raising awareness,” Mr Reeve says. “The industry was behind ZAP but our smaller members weren’t sure.”

How did he get his SMEs engaged?

“It’s about persuasion to make it as simple as possible.”

But he says that some problems still remain for SMEs.

“The biggest problem is interaction with the supply chain. The domestic client seldom asks about safety. The problem comes if they are asked a multitude of questions about it and they may resent safety. Our members are immensely resourceful, it’s just breaking down the mental barrier,” Mr Reeve says.

He adds that for many members, their main contractor clients put out a confusing message when inviting tenders for work.

“You get this feeling that you are being asked to guess what they want. There can be some pretty strange efforts in communicating. They can be told that they are not meeting the requirements but not what they are,” he says.

Simplicity needed

The ECA wants prequalification to be simplified. “We are totally against the proliferation of prequalification. We are working with a number of groups on it. It’s very difficult, but we are getting there,” Mr Reeve says. It has also helped to convince HSE to say ‘this is what good looks like,’ with the CDM regulations.

It first focused on falls from height and asbestos – not strictly part of safety but very important to the industry, it felt.

And it is working so far.

“The most dramatic reduction has been working at height. All accidents have reduced by 40 per cent since 2001,” Mr Reeve says.

The focus is still on asbestos but also on slips, trips and falls, and on simple ways to do risk assessments on site as well as method statements.


• The ECA targeted a 30 per cent reduction in RIDDOR-reportable accidents and recently announced a 49 per cent reduction. It also wanted a 40 per cent reduction in major injuries and current statistics show a fall of nearly 60 per cent.

• The initiative asks for commitment from the top, the setting of annual goals for high hazard activities and involvement of all staff.

• It asks SMEs to do a risk assessment and says: “Don’t overcomplicate health and safety. Assess what the biggest risks are
to people and ensure they are controlled by sensible measures. Tell employees what you are doing – they are the ones that know what happens ‘on the tools’.

To download a PDF on improving health and safety performance in electrical contracting, click on the resource box on the right hand of the page