Health and Safety Relationships

Nattasha Freeman
To bring about positive change in health and safety practices, we need to harness the relationships between people and processes.

CDM 2015 makes clients much more accountable for the impact of their decisions, their approach to project health and safety management, and the way in which they ensure that the Principal Designer and Principal Contractor comply with their own duties. The new guidance also confronts lack of coordination at the pre-construction phase when hazards can be designed out of the construction, use and maintenance phases of the project life.

CDM 2015 also acknowledges workforce diversity. Differences in cultures, languages, risk perceptions and willingness to challenge health & safety breaches can potentially make it more difficult to shape a uniformly positive safety culture: by, for example recognising that the guidance is explicit on communication for workers for whom English is not their first language, should include translation/interpretation and/or use of diagrams/symbols in place of written notices.

At Faithful+Gould, we encourage our clients to bring about positive health and safety change in their organisations and throughout their projects. At project outset we advise our clients on the content of their health and safety questionnaires; as in doing so they 'demand' and can influence their supply chain to set a higher standard of health and safety management from them, aiming to get the best health and safety outcomes from the supply chain and ensuring that contractors and sub-contractors play their part.

CDM 2015 makes clients much more accountable for the impact of their decisions and, their approach to project health and safety management...

At concept stage, we interrogate risk in its many forms – commercial, financial and design. Together with our client, we consider the health and safety aspects of the design, so that construction and final user in-use risks can be designed out, in line with the intention of CDM 2015: this in itself de-risks some of the commercial and financial aspects. We then communicate the remaining risks to the Principal Contractor who should use their skill, knowledge and expertise to construct out those risks, with our assistance.

At tender stage, we look at ways of rewarding the supply chain for adopting good health and safety practices and demonstrating good communication in multi-contractor site management. To get from concept to handover we have to recognise the relationships of design as well as project parties. All design changes during the project process have an impact, and their timing sequence affects the way in which the Principal Contractor delivers.

Project relationships go beyond the immediate project team, to local authorities, highways and neighbours. Effective leadership extends to those who recognise the relationships, raise awareness, and, in their actions, facilitate positive change. In this respect it's important to recognise the value of non-health and safety professionals who have made a positive contribution to health and safety. I was delighted to present the recent IOSH West of Scotland Certificate of Merit Awards in Glasgow, to some of those non-health and safety professionals – testament to a change in industry thinking on workers’ health, safety and wellbeing.

Differences in cultures, languages, risk perceptions and willingness to challenge health & safety breaches can potentially make it more difficult to shape a uniformly positive safety culture.

As a past president of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), I'm highly conscious of the relationships between people and processes in health and safety management, and the way in which these relationships influence success. My presidential theme, Proactive Intervention and Return to Work, aimed underlined the need to put the health back into health and safety, and my current work influences people at different levels to adopt a good standard of health and safety practice: one which values workers.

I now represent IOSH on the Board of the Council for Work and Health (CWH). CWH is sponsoring the Occupational Workforce Planning Project, which explores how occupational health should be delivered over the next 20 years and identifies the influencers and enablers who need to act. The study explains that protecting people effectively in the workplace takes a whole network of employers, employees, occupational health specialists and health and safety professionals.

Construction health and safety professionals have an excellent opportunity to further this people agenda, working with our clients and project teams to raise awareness, and facilitating discussions that enable safe project delivery. The client is especially important, following the changes effected by the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015).

Project relationships go beyond the immediate project team, to local authorities, highways and neighbours.

At the end of a project, we measure health and safety success. Is the building fit for purpose and safe to use/maintain? Is there a record of no-one hurt in the process and no action from enforcement agencies? However, the measures of success are not always in the wash-up notes, but in intangibles like zero harm to contractors and de-risking the process for delivery.

Our health and safety leadership focuses on raising the industry standard, rather than the often-encountered expected tick box exercise. We uphold the link between safety and good health and wellbeing, and this underpins our practice. Leading from the front, we facilitate the health and safety process, using people skills to embed and grow the safety at work ethos. Repeat business from our clients underlines the 'profit' in this approach.