In February, I was privileged to be appointed Group Safety Director. Although the promotion is personal recognition of my work at The P&M Group over the last twelve years, it also says a great deal about how health and safety is valued by the business. Safety sits at the heart of the group’s ‘People First’ culture and I am proud to work in an organisation that recognises people as its greatest asset.
Having started life at the group as a H&S Advisor I now manage a team of four safety and environmental professionals. This level of investment and commitment to driving up safety standards is rare for a business of our size – and I firmly believe it is one of things that helps us stand out from others. Safety and environmental issues are fully embraced, and I am excited about helping to deliver The P & M Group’s wider sustainability strategy within this context.
We have a catch line that ‘good health and safety doesn’t happen by accident’. It takes hard work, a commitment to building long-term relationships and requires endurance. Over the years we have increased awareness, raised standards and ensured that keeping people safe is everyone’s number one priority. It doesn’t happen overnight and isn’t always easy, but health and safety is at the forefront of people’s minds.
Teamwork is fundamental too and is something I have always held dear. At grass roots level it is important that our in-house Safety team supports colleagues and offers them meaningful advice and solutions.
We work hard at being seen as people who do more than simply carry out site safety audits. As the support team we need to understand the practicalities and challenges around delivering projects. Likewise, the legal requirements around working safely and associated documentation, must be understood and implemented by those at the coalface. Good communication and collaboration are key; sitting down and discussing projects over a cup of coffee can be a great way of fusing practical experience with technical jargon and information. Ultimately all of us want the same thing – for our colleagues and our subcontractor teams to deliver safe and quality builds and for them to go home fit and well at the end of the working day.
Continuous improvement and ongoing challenges
One of our group values is ‘Develop’ which focuses on developing people and raising standards, and committing to continuous improvement is part of our culture. Despite the progress we have made in health and safety, I am determined that we don’t rest on our laurels. We must continue to drive up standards, challenge poor behaviour and find productive ways to communicate our key messages. Training is integral to raising standards and we carry out regular analysis to provide relevant training for all roles and responsibilities.
We operate in a niche sector of the construction industry and building complex structures from composite panels presents many challenges. One difficulty that may not be instantly apparent is proving operative competency – not helped by the fact that there are currently no apprenticeships or NVQs that cover this type of work. Being proactive, we are looking to deliver our own solution with a small group of us working on how best to prove competency against a set of specific criteria. On-site observations, carried out by our own experienced managers, will be key evidence. We see operative portfolios facilitating our own version of a ‘skill’ card in the future – with the added potential of it attracting and retaining competent people.
Full inclusivity at site level can be testing too, with the difficult challenge of providing the same level of information and support to all. Several our employees do not have English as their first language, and we have prioritised translating our risk assessments into several languages to help with this aspect. We want everyone to understand and buy into our safety culture. That requires ongoing dialogue so that we can unearth risks and find control measures; we can never afford to be complacent.
Reaping the benefits
In building mutually respectful relationships and developing a safety culture, The P & M Group has made significant progress. I am incredibly proud of our health and safety record but, in common with most others in the safety industry, tend to shy away from sharing measures of success for fear of tempting fate.
However, to provide some evidence to back up my pride I would point to our recent record. We are required by law to notify the Health & Safety Executive of any Reportable Accidents, namely major injuries and other injuries that prevent a person from undertaking their normal duties for more than seven days. To this end, I am delighted that it has been more than 1,800 days since we had a Reportable Accident – equivalent to 14,500 working hours, or five working years. Regarding our subcontractor teams, the longest period without a Reportable Accident has been 10,500 working hours – another very creditable performance.
My role continues to evolve and one of the aspects I am most excited about is how the Safety team can support the group on its sustainability journey. Our Sustainability Report sets out our vision and road map to embed sustainability across the organisation. It incorporates an ambitious set of actions that incorporate health and safety functions.
Our materiality assessment highlights the importance of key issues to the business and its stakeholders. These include raising site labour standards, training and upskilling. Furthermore, our gap analysis and action plan outline our intention to focus on ‘Good Health and Well-being’ in line with United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3. It also states our plans to improve waste management procedures and practices through the education of on-site teams and set waste to landfill targets as part of a quantifiable waste reduction plan.
I am working closely with our Group Sustainability Manager, Joanne Moore to help achieve our goals. As an ethical and responsible business, I’m sure that we will continue putting people first and strive to reduce our environmental impact.
–Steve Baker, Group Safety Director, The P & M Group