Let’s Collaborate our Way to Keeping our Workforce Safe

A search on the internet will quickly show how collaboration between suppliers to improve health and safety is an issue in many sectors. As construction, and infrastructure, in particular, is a sector with among the highest risks of all there’s a particularly pressing need for us to achieve greater collaboration.
Across the construction industry, large contracts involve multiple suppliers. And each of the main suppliers is probably subcontracting to tier 2 and tier 3 suppliers. We all have to accept responsibility for the safety, not just of our own employees and suppliers, but for the supply chains of all organisations involved.

The actions and working practices of anyone in this complex supplier network can have serious consequences that could affect everyone. We simply can’t tackle safety issues effectively in isolation.

The issue is not only how contractors control their own supply chain but how we increase collaboration between suppliers at all levels. This is the only way to improve consistency in planning and communication and achieve uniformly high standards of behaviour and culture when it comes to safe working.

Money that could be better spent

Keeping people safe is sufficient motivation in its own right to improve collaboration. But there’s also a clear business logic. According to one study, construction firms in the UK are spending about £65.26 million each year managing information about their suppliers – half of which is being wasted through duplication and failure to work collaboratively. Imagine if we used that money to actively improve safety training and systems!

Our membership of Southern Shield (a forum of contractors and Network Rail) is an example of active collaboration in action.

When we collaborate through forums like this we are all looking at the same safety data and reports. We are learning and sharing the same lessons rather than expecting others to find out for themselves. More importantly, we are planning joint training and awareness-raising activities that ensure consistency of message, standards, and expectations right across the supplier network.

By working closely with other suppliers (including competitors) we are helping to keep their supply chain safe, and helping them to keep our supply chain and employees safe.

In the same spirit, we publish STOP Think! safety bulletins regularly. These are open to anyone who will find them useful: clients, suppliers and the general public. They share lessons we’ve learned through our own contracts and best practice from around the industry and academic sources.

As an organisation, we believe that if you’ve learned something that will help keep people safe you have a duty to share it as widely as possible. When we all do that everyone benefits and everyone is safer.

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