Archive | November, 2010

Neal Stone reports from 3rd Annual Health and Safety Excellence conference in Barcelona

25 Nov

The 3rd Health + Safety Excellence event in Barcelona in November 2010 brought together leading edge speakers and delegates willing and able to share their experiences and understanding of the contribution of positive behaviours and culture to workplace safety.

 Speakers and delegates from organisations including Diageo, Nestle, Kraft Foods, BAE Systems, UK Coal, Tata Steel, ArcelorMittel and Imerys described the journey many were making in trying to achieve world class safety.

What was apparent was the difficulty facing the organisations in trying to achieve this goal. Not one claimed to have reached the pinnacle. But many were able to describe the measures they had put in place with some success including winning the hearts and minds of the workers to play their part in staying safe.

Inder Poonaji, Head of SHE, Nestle UK and Ireland described the journey the company was making, shifting the workforce from being reactive to proactive on safety. The company’s h+s policy has been distilled into one page.

Six golden rules act as a constant reminder to employees of the responsibilities they have and the behaviour they must display. The golden rules are set out on small pocket sized cards which Nestle employees are encouraged to carry at all times. 

Nestle operate a yellow and red card system for contractors for safety infractions. A red card leads to the removal of the contractor from the site. However contractors views are valued and are encouraged to share their observations about Nestle safety practices and provide feedback.

The event included a half day workshop on delivering a winning KPI system which I delivered. The aim of the workshop was to bring  home the inherent difficulty faced by organisations in producing accurate, comprehensive and SMART data.

There was overwhelming agreement that the Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate (LTIFR) was a poor measure on its own of organisational safety performance. This workshop brought home the complexity of the systems, procedures, attitudes, behaviours and actions that have to be measured in order to provide an accurate and complete picture and performance.

An over-concentration on one or a few performance metrics could lead to the neglect of so many aspects vital to good health and safety. Regretably the focus all too often is achieving a year-on-year improvement in a metric as the LTIFR rather than addressing the fundamental question why those accidents are happening.

Inder Poonaji brought home vividly that safety must move with the times, “We have to be smarter in the way we deal with safety and the way we communicate. We have a new generation of workers for whom facebook and apps are the preferred method of communications.”


All’s well at Inmarsat

24 Nov

When one of our members invited me to their wellness day, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I thought it would just involve one of those super-fit health experts telling me to eat healthily, drink less wine and do more exercise. But I was pleasantly surprised!

Satellite service provider Inmarsat holds a wellness day every year, with the aim of promoting a healthy lifestyle to its 400-strong workforce. It is clear the company looks after its staff all year round – there is an in-house catering team who make lunches to order, as well as a fully-fitted gym on site and daily activity classes such as yoga and kickboxing – but the wellness day is a chance to bring it all together.

When I walk into the cafeteria area, where the event is being held, the first thing that catches my eye is a table full of colourful fruit and veg. There’s an array of fresh produce – from aubergines to sweet potatoes, bunches of grapes to juicy plums – I feel healthy just looking at it!

This table proves popular with staff who are able to help themselves – it’s like healthy pic‘n’mix! There’s a hive of activity as people jostle to grab the biggest cauliflower or the longest cucumber. I see one lady walk out with a bag full to the brim and a butternut squash tucked under her arm!

External companies have also been brought in to offer special services to Inmarsat staff. AXA PPP health insurance, for example,  are there to provide advice and give away free stress balls, Fitness First have special offers on membership, while Hodd, Barnes and Dickens are offering free eye tests.

As well as the health side, there is also the beauty side. Clarins and the Body Shop have been brought in to provide one-to-one consultations on skincare. There’s also the chance to pick up some free samples.

Meanwhile, on the first floor, there’s a relaxation room where staff are treated to massages. As I walk in, a lady is lying face down on a massage table while being given a shoulder and back massage. Across the room, a man in a shirt and tie is having his feet massaged. These lucky members of staff managed to book an appointment prior to the event, but every 20-minute slot has been filled so unfortunately there’s no time for me to be pampered.

Lloydeth Newell is health and safety manager at Inmarsat and she, with the help of her team of Burdy Murray and Vicky Rose, have organised the day. And it’s fair to say the event is a success. As I put my coat on to leave, all that remains of the fruit and veg table is one red onion and a few carrots. And as I walk out of the building, I pass a number of employees looking remarkably healthy and relaxed as they head back to work. Not a bad day at the office.

Read more about Inmarsat’s wellness programme in the December issue of Safety Management.

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Occupational Health and Safety

15 Nov

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Occupational Health and Safety kicked off its 2010/11 programme on 9th November with a hard hitting meeting featuring a presentation by Lord Young on his review of health and safety and compensation and a discussion on the impact of the deficit reduction on HSE and local authorities regulatory and other work. 

Jim Sheridan MP, the new APPG chair, together with Ian Lavery MP and Lisa Nandy MP, closely examined Lord Young on the potential impact of the government’s reforms on the country’s health and safety performance and set out their concerns about proposed changes to RIDDOR injury reporting requirements and the easing of risk assessments on small low risk businesses. Lord Young was forthright in his responses as the MPs were in setting out their views.

 The British Safety Council,  which regularly attends the APPG meetings, had hoped that more MPs and Peers would take advantage of the opportunity to hear Lord Young first hand and share their views on his review and separate but equally important issue of cuts in HSE and local authority budgets for health and safety enforcement. The APPG will have a vital role to play in helping MPs and Peers influence the future direction of travel.        

For a full list of APPG members, click here>>

Neal Stone, Head of Policy and Public Affairs

Offshore Survival Part Two

5 Nov

As I promised yesterday, I can reveal that HUET stands for Helicopter Underwater Escape Training. This was probably the most exciting part of the offshore survival course, and involved us students being lowered into a swimming pool in a mocked-up helicopter. Helicopters are used to transport workers to North Sea oil rigs and although crashes into water are extremely rare, there were two such cases last year (in one case the crew were all killed and in the other were rescued), so it is important that workers are fluent in emergency procedures.

Here we are, bracing for impact:

The ‘helicopter’ is then rotated, or capsized:

Although being strapped into a seat, underwater, upside-down is a terrifying situation, the training we had been given yesterday prepared us to make our escape as calmly and quickly as possible. We were told to, with one hand, locate our window; and with the other, our belt buckle (visibility under the sea would be almost zero).

Here I am, after punching out my window:

In our survival suits, we then had to squeeze out of the windows and swim to the surface. We did a number of different drills, including with breathing apparatus, which is not comfortable but can buy valuable seconds of life. I escaped!:

As well at the HUET, the course gave us basic training in first aid, fire fighting, life crafts and an introduction to the offshore industry.

The mood among the group of students and trainees has been generally light-hearted, but when our instructor speaks about the Piper Alpha oil rig fire in 1988 – which killed 167 men – the atmosphere quietens and everyone remembers why we are here. Offshore oil and gas is one of the most dangerous industries in the world, so this type of in-depth (literally, in this case), training is required. However, safety professionals in all industries could learn a lot from the practical, interactive training given on the BOSIET course.

For more about my offshore survival training, see December’s Safety Management magazine.

Offshore Survival Part One

4 Nov

Being winched into a helicopter from a stormy sea, with a survival suit dragging me down, was not where I imagined a job on Safety Management magazine would lead me.

Luckily, both the waves and the chopper were simulations. But the safety equipment and procedures were very real.

In the wake of the disaster on BP’s oil rig Deepwater Horizon earlier in the year (where 11 people died) and some less-than-encouraging HSE stats about unwanted hydrocarbon releases in the North Sea, the safety standards of the offshore gas and oil industry are once again a hot topic. So I have been sent to take the three-day BOSIET (Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training) course that everyone – from cleaners to top CEOs – must undergo before being allowed out on an oil rig.

In the Teesside training centre, I am the only female in a group of 12 students. But their maleness is the only thing they share: they range from a long-serving OIMs (Oil Installation Manager) here to top up his qualification for the forth time, to a young Polish engineer who needs to go onto an oil rid to control sea-bed robots. There is also a man who has been long-term unemployed, resentful about having to pay the high course costs himself just to get back in the job market.

Our jovial Geordie instructor is full of nuggets of information such as the fact that “women and children first” is a misnomer, since, in cold water, we are likely to survive longer – or be revived more successfully – than men. There has been a lot of information to take in  – but the instructors prefer us to learn practically – hence the swimming pool dunks.

I have a lot more to tell you about what I’ve been up to: particularity what HUET stands for (clue: it’s thrilling) and some psychology about how humans act in a fire situations at sea. But for now I’ll leave you with a photo of me in my survival suit this morning: