Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Making a difference

T5 Safety

Conventional safety campaigns can only go so far. Alan Sparks reports on how a new safety culture is developing on T5 - which also benefits the programme.

'Tackling health and safety is not just my job, ' says BAA T5 head of health and safety Mike Evans. 'My job is to make sure everybody else makes it part of theirs.'

Obviously the T5 project is white hot on what Evans refers to as 'nuts and bolts' safety - the basic equipment essentials. And the development of a systematic approach has been taken pretty much to its limit.

The challenge now facing everyone at T5 is to think about whether they could do what they do in a safer way. And the end result is often a simpler way of working, which can be done quicker or better.

'We have hard examples to prove that taking the safest route is generally the most efficient and has a positive impact on quality and productivity - that's before you factor in gains from not losing staff to injuries, ' Evans explains.

A sign at the entrance gate shouts boldly to all workers: 'If you can't do it safely; don't do it!'

Impressed upon the minds of all who enter is the duty to refuse if they think their work can be done in a safer way. And this has happened.

'Getting people to stop and think what they are doing demands a complete change in their approach to the job. Long established methods are too often blindly followed and we are determined to change this, ' says Evans.

With one team of workers this sounds achievable. But at T5 there is a massive turnover of staff as different phases of work begin.

Over the course of the project, up to 60,000 workers will pass through the site. In July alone over 1,250 new staff walked onto T5.

'This is our biggest challenge, ' Evans acknowledges. 'And to make sure the new workers understand what we are trying to achieve here, we have invested heavily in inductions and training.'

Filling workers' heads with new ideas is one thing but the chances are that they have heard a lot of it before. On many sites the general perception is that these inductions are full of nice ideas and comforting words, but not backed up in reality.

Evans knows this. He says: 'If a manager walks past a worker who is breaking the rules, and he says nothing, then all the investment, all the training in the world will be wasted. Because if that worker does not believe that we mean what we say, then they will not buy into the culture - and why should they?'

To overcome this, T5 is targeting managers, supervisors and operatives in a major programme of workshops and seminars. The aim is to raise expectations and get everyone to appreciate the value of their role in creating an 'incident and injury free' environment.

Supervisors are already being targeted - 'they are an absolutely vital link'. They put people to work and so have to translate management expectations into everyday reality.

Most people's experience of health and safety is one of imposed rules and enforcement.

But this will not allow BAA to reach its much-trumpeted 'One in a Million' safety campaign, which is aiming at a maximum of one reportable accident per million hours worked on site.

'We need to make people feel that they own it, that they are part of it and that they can make a difference, ' Evans insists. 'There is a genuine interest from workers and we are seeing more questions being asked of why they are working like that.'

Near misses are subjected to the same rigorous scrutiny as actual accidents. Managers and designers are given a hard time when they occur, as to why and what could have been done to prevent them, adds Evans.

On average, the UK construction industry operates with around 12 reportable accidents per million site hours. On T5 so far this figure has been five per million. 'One in a million is basically our brand of excellence in health and safety, ' says Evans.

'And we are improving during the project to the point where we are closing in on this aim. In November the accident rate was down to 1.1 per million. We have proved we can do it, but we need greater consistency to reach it and remain there.'

Despite this, the focus is never on statistics. 'The workers do not care about statistics. What we have to do is make safety a people issue, make workers engage and discuss why they are working in a certain way, and how this could be improved. They must buy into the culture for it to make a difference.'

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.