empowering the individual

Empowering the individual is key on the road to success

Martin WorthingtonSHEQ Director | Morgan Sindall Construction and Infrastructure writes: “Empowering the individual is the key to successfully delivering a safe highways project. Fostering a sense of community and trust amongst the whole team empowers everyone, from the operational lead to the smallest subcontractor.”

Collective outcomes reach goals

Individuals and teams should not underestimate their contribution to creating a safe environment for ultimate success. For relatively new people or those in less senior roles, they may not feel confident enough to speak out on safety issues. To counter this, we use a apply a number of techniques, including  ‘Safety Empowerment Cards’. The cards provide every worker with the ability to halt an operation that they think is unsafe or risky. It’s a simple but effective way of instilling responsibility to empower the individual. Safety Empowerment Cards are also a great way of showing new recruits that they are trustworthy members of a team.

Innovative health and safety tools and activities

When people start a new job, it is vital for both employer and employee make a good impression. One innovation we’ve implemented is the translation of induction boards and signage into languages such as Punjabi, Romanian and Polish. Information can also be accessed through a QR code on the boards. This has proved invaluable in providing a warm welcome to new members of the team and providing them with essential health and safety details. We have also created stickers for workers to identify where language translations may be required. And, we translate other documents and videos where appropriate, and make use of visual safety imagery as much as possible to highlight risks.  

Another great tool is our Positive Intervention app. This allows an individual employee or supply chain member to provide direct feedback on good practice or areas for improvement. Empowering the individual is key to staying safe. The various mechanisms and tools mentioned here give individuals a voice.

Our Views of Operatives in the Construction Environment initiative – also known as VOICE

We developed VOICE, a feedback tool, over many years. Its aim is to ensure everyone on-site feels they have a ‘real’ input into the day to day operations. VOICE sessions take the form of relaxed get-togethers on-site which helps people feel more confident to voice their opinions. The sessions include a nominated rep to oversee the agenda, resultant outputs and actions, which staff then drive. We publish the outputs on “You said – We did” boards across the site so everyone can see the actions taken.

Employee involvement and engagement is essential to improving safety. As a result of VOICE feedback, we have adjusted operations, improved head torches, increased the number of mental health first aiders, introduced wellbeing additions such as vending machines, cycle bays and community projects.

Ongoing improvements

A big part of ongoing improvements is refinements to senior management engagement. We have introduced engagement discussions that use themed ‘grab cards’, which we deliver in the field to provoke healthy debate. Engagement discussions came about through operatives and supply chain teams. They advised that people felt more comfortable having discussions on their own patch. 

Our teams have risen to the responsibility we’ve given them to help improve safety on site. It is important to recognise their continued contributions. We reward individuals whose commitment to health and safety goes above and beyond with a monthly cash prize and donation to a charity of their choice. Plus, we provide spot canteen vouchers for immediate recognition of exemplary behaviour. While our approach to safety incorporates new technology and advanced thinking, it would be remiss to overlook the continued power of a genuine thank you.

A number of years ago I was extremely proud to be involved with the development of the HSE Leadership and Worker Involvement Toolkit (LWIT). Its creation was the result of a lot of research and learning from key industry figures. Its use at Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure has had a very positive impact on our work. I would encourage my colleagues across the industry to include this in their own health and safety provisions. Furthermore, to promote this within their supply chains, especially given the amount of advice and free resources in there.

To finish…

Everything I’ve described here has improved both safety on-site as well as the service we deliver to our customers. We continue to encourage our teams to keep us updated on any further interventions that may be required.

Highways projects are often vast undertakings that rely on hundreds of workers across different shift patterns. It is ultimately the collective team effort that will result in a safe and successful project, but what drives the team forward is the knowledge that everyone’s opinion is valued and listened to.

Meet the Expert – Martin sits on the Construction Health and Safety Manual Editorial Panel and is a Corporate Member of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (CMIOSH). He is based in Salford and is responsible for Safety, Health, Environmental and Quality matters within Morgan Sindall – Construction and Infrastructure.  Martin is a member of the Senior Management Board.  Martin previously held senior roles providing leadership in the development of Safety, Health, Environmental & Quality management systems and staff across the UK and internationally (Hong Kong) on activities including; building, civil engineering, piling, tunnelling, pre-cast works and utilities.

First seen on 25 January 2019 on Safer Highways.