David Parker, Executive Director for EMCOR UK, firmly believes this isn’t crazy talk.
When safety performance is outstanding enough to achieve the recognition of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and the British Safety Council, perhaps most companies would do more of the same, repeating the activities of the previous period, hoping to maintain the same standards and garner the same results.
At EMCOR UK, hope is not a strategy – challenging the norm and constant improvement, is.
Challenging the norm to achieve outstanding safety performance is more than a concept. At EMCOR UK, we not only believe that it’s only by actually changing and constantly improving the approach and attitude toward safety that you’ll break through to zero injuries, we’ve been putting it into practice and progressing toward “zero” for years now.
Getting to zero takes far more than process and procedure, although both are a crucial element of getting to good safety performance. At EMCOR UK we strongly believe that frontline leadership is needed to achieve the required change in behavioural safety.
As an Executive Director with safety responsibility for 3,500 employees, I fully understand safety is an essential part of every working day, no matter who the employee or what the role is; it’s an important focus for me each and every day. Certainly it’s important that our 2,800 team members who regularly engage in a manual task feel the same. Risk perception is naturally increased when you enter a hazardous or high risk environment. But how do people feel when conducting a safety patrol or vacuuming a carpet – tasks perceived to be generally lower safety risks? Interestingly, statistics indicate that oftentimes injury occurred amongst staff performing soft services where they did not perceive there to be a significant risk. So how do you change the behaviour, and make all people safety aware at all times?
EMCOR UK’s journey to zero injuries started eight years ago. At that time, we began a programme of improving near miss reporting in order to more accurately understand where the risks were. Our approach included increased visibility of leadership through our “cultural checks”. A “cultural check” is designed as a “stop and talk” session with our employees and supply chain partners. We discuss the safety measures being deployed, check Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and risk assessments and method statements, but more importantly we engage in a conversation about safety. To date we have conducted over 4,000 of these one-on-one sessions across our management teams.
To enhance our leadership team’s awareness of why setting a good culture locally is a crucial element we introduced EMCOR UK’s annual Safety Masterclass event. At these events we take 250 of our senior team members through a variety of situations including interactive role play scenarios in court rooms and emergency procedure situations. Guest speakers, who have experience of the adverse impact poor safety behaviour can have on individuals and organisations, are asked to share their learning. When asked afterwards which items had the most effect, it is always the personal impact stories that resonate with the most impact. So why, if we can relate to these stories and know that these injuries can happen do we not think more about preventing them? Why do many of us learn the painful way?
As we seek to move closer to zero injuries it is essential to ensure our supervisory personnel are absolutely committed to delivering a safe working environment. That is why in 2015, EMCOR UK is staging our largest Safety Masterclass in its history. As part of our continued focus on behavioural safety, EMCOR UK has invited all staff at the supervisor level to participate. Our guest speaker will be Dr Tim Marsh, who is an expert in the field of behavioural culture change in Safety.
Supervisors have a critical role to play in organisational safety, as they allocate the tasks to employees and have initial responsibility for the environment in which our teams operate. Frontline supervision can, therefore, be the weakest – or help to be one of the strongest, links. They have one of the most important roles, yet may be the least qualified to achieve the task. For example, how many supervisors have been promoted for being a great ‘doer’? Supervision needs a range of skills, not least a base level understanding of the principles and interventions of safety, along with good leadership qualities and, perhaps most importantly, an ability to intervene and say ‘stop’. EMCOR UK will be training our employees in both the people skills to act as effective supervisors in safety, as well as to be competent technically. If we can engage our supervision level and get our teams to believe how critically important their roles are, then the tables begin to turn. EMCOR UK then will have 1000+ ‘safety leaders’ – a much better ratio with which to achieve that final push towards “zero injuries”.
Together as a company, EMCOR UK is committed to delivering a safe environment for our staff, customers, and everyone whose lives we touch.More