H&S Incidents – How you Respond Speaks Volumes About your Values

If you’re responsible for infrastructure projects, safety is never far from the front of your mind. A strong personal and collective commitment to safety drives our business at all levels, right through the supply chain to encompass the whole Osborne ‘family’.
Mercifully, serious safety incidents in our business are rare. However, every so often there is a wake up call, an accident or an incident with high potential; something that really makes you question whether you are doing enough to keep everyone safe. Waking up to the message ‘there has been a serious incident last night,’ is an event that briefly puts your life on hold.

At that point, all that matters is establishing that the team members involved are safe and unharmed. This quickly moves on to soul searching over what went wrong and what learning we can take to avoid putting lives at risk in the future.

A Safe Culture?

What happens next tells you everything about an organisation’s commitment to health and safety. Our approach is to be completely open, with an absolute determination to learn from the events. You can’t change what happened, but you can absolutely ensure you learn from the experience and share this learning widely across the industry to make sure it can’t happen again.

Two incidents in fairly quick succession recently gave our organisation a wake up call. Although thankfully, nobody was harmed in either event, there was significant potential in both. I cancelled our Annual Leadership Conference and replaced it with a specific Safety Leadership Conference as an immediate response.

During the conference, I consistently saw personal and collective commitments from our leaders; a determination to drive a performance improvement in safety. This reinforced what I had always believed; that ours is an organisation with a deep commitment to the safety of our teams – both directly employed and within our supply chain.

The leaders of our organisation demonstrated energy and focus. They were determined to learn and improve quickly. We reflected on the incidents and considered what improvements we might like to see implemented if we were putting our own families out on our railway lines and highways. Through this process of making the safety of our people even more personal, we identified several improvements.

Focus groups established on the back of this session targeted key areas to accelerate our improvement journey. We firmly put ourselves back in the mindset of doing absolutely everything in our power to keep every member of our ‘Osborne family’ safe.

Every Link is Critical

Health and Safety is only as strong as the weakest link. Our biggest challenge is to increase the pace of safety improvement through every level of our organisation and deep into our supply chain. Being consistent and unwavering in setting exceptional standards, and holding ourselves accountable to deliver is crucial.

Every individual must feel able to speak up and never ‘walk by’. They must live the reality that safety is a collective responsibility and nothing is so important or urgent that it cannot be done safely.

Whoever you are, any serious incident should be a significant learning opportunity; a call to step up, raise the bar and ensure that something similar can never happen again. The challenge we all face is to keep ourselves in that heightened mindset; to maintain that relentless and unwavering commitment to the safety of our people without the need for accidents and incidents to renew that focus.

John Dowsett is the Managing Director for Infrastructure at Osborne.

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