Tideway is using the word “transformational” in relation to workplace wellbeing.
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Driven by the personal passion of chief executive Andy Mitchell, it wants its mega-sewer tunnel project to change the way the civil engineering sector views workplace wellbeing over the next few years.
A radical approach is needed. Health & Safety Executive figures say that 18% of reported work-related illnesses in the UK construction industry result from mental health problems, such as stress, depression or anxiety – accounting for 400,000 working days lost each year.
Suicides among construction workers are also believed to be up to 10 times higher than the number of fatal accidents at work.
Clients are changing
That is a staggering statistic and explains why wellbeing is now as firmly in the minds of clients like Tideway as much as traditional approaches to health and safety.
As all who work in this industry know, safety cannot be taken for granted and, while the 30 fatalities in the UK construction industry in 2016/17 were among the lowest on record, the figure is still too high.
This is why major clients like Highways England and Network Rail are continuing to challenge and work with their supply chains to do better.
If we want people to feel differently about the job we have to treat them differently
For Mitchell, and for Tideway, health and safety is old language; the new mantra is wellness and wellbeing and its Right Way programme is a bold attempt to instill cultural change in the construction industry supply chain.
“If you don’t do something meaningfully different how are you going to notice the change?” he asked, when talking to New Civil Engineer early last year, before the start of work on its various sites and as the supply chain was beginning to get inducted into the Tideway way.
Treating people differently
“If we want people to feel differently about the job we have to treat them differently; we have to have their families see them being treated with respect and also to see what they are achieving,” he said, in reference to the Right Way programme that is spearheaded by its EPIC safety induction programme.
New Civil Engineer’s team has done it and can confirm it is truly impactful.
The day plays out a real-life scenario interactively and challenges participants to think more deeply about the behaviours and cultures that can lead to work-related illness, accidents and, ultimately, fatalities.
That induction day is followed up with a boat trip along the Tideway route, to familiarise everyone with the project and unite them in a common goal.
Fast forward 12 months and Tideway is still leading the way. It is backing a pioneering programme to tackle mental health issues in construction that has just been rolled out across the industry.
At Tideway, health, safety and wellbeing is at the forefront of everything it does. Are the rest following suit?