Utility Week

UTILITY Week 16th December 2016

Utility Week - authoritative, impartial and essential reading for senior people within utilities, regulators and government

Issue link: https://fhpublishing.uberflip.com/i/762954

Contents of this Issue


Page 21 of 31

22 | 16TH - 22ND DECEMBER 2016 | UTILITY WEEK Operations & Assets Conference Health and Safety Birmingham 30 November 2016 It's about health, not just safety Ensuring the wellbeing of all employees – rather than simply preventing accidents – was the overriding theme of Utility Week's latest conference. Mathew Beech was there. I n a frosty and festive Birmingham, health and safety experts from inside and out- side the utility sector gathered. The first thing the delegates noted about the conference room was the Christmas trees, safely positioned behind festive barriers. But delegates at the Utility Week Health & Safety conference, sponsored by Weightmans, had more pressing matters to discuss. Prime among these was how the energy and water sectors will achieve high produc- tivity and reduce the numbers of incidents and working days lost as waves of new investment and new, nationally significant, infrastructure projects get off the ground. The answer appears to be to focus on the details of these projects, and on the smaller aspects of employees' working lives. One of the main areas where discussion and actions are now taking place is improving the "health" part of health and safety, with individual well- being becoming an increasingly important part of an employer's responsibility. But there is still a determination to improve workplace safety. The Thames Tide- way Tunnel is one of the UK's biggest infra- structure projects. Tideway aims to avoid the typical pattern of major civil works – an early peak in incidents before a health and safety drive kicks in and the numbers fall. So, learn- ing lessons from other projects, Tideway will give all the workforce an induction through its "Epic" scheme before any incidents take place, rather than reacting to them. Other speakers agreed that learning from all sectors is key to reducing impacts, espe- cially by keeping things simple, because complex procedures are more likely to be skipped when the pressure is on. Speakers from outside the utilities sector included Captain Rob Woods, chief of staff at the Defence Safety Authority, who drilled home the notion that poor safety results in lost operational capability. He added that having an independent view on safety, whether from non-executive directors or elsewhere, is important. The value of getting safety right, not only from a human point of view, but from a financial one, was highlighted when two legal speakers stated that there is potential for "limitless penalties". Away from site safety, the notion of well- being and employee health came to the fore. Companies are increasingly aware that a happy and health worker is a productive one, and are introducing flexible management systems to help improve physical and mental health. RWE Npower's head of occupational health and wellbeing, Robert Manson, told delegates that dealing with stress used to be a "nice to have", but today it is an essential part of HR and health and safety. As one speaker said, "we can't work without people". It is that focus on people, as well as onsite processes and safety, that really shone out from the conference. Health and safety is no longer a box-ticking exercise and all about PPE. It is about individuals and ensuring that each person is supported to help them be as productive as possible. All of this, as well as the fundamentals of preventing injuries, is being firmly embed- ded into the operational activities of utili- ties, with wellbeing also becoming ever more important. Jim Byard, head of disease practice, Weightmans "Sitting is the new smoking. That's my answer to the question of what potentially could be the new asbestos." Views from the top table: Suleman Alli, director of safety strategy and support services, UKPN "You have to keep safety front of mind. You are at your most vulnerable when you think you're at your safest."

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Utility Week - UTILITY Week 16th December 2016