Is Health and Safety being properly addressed for highways users?

Local highway authorities are progressively turning to framework agreements to balance increasing highway capacity demands with ever reducing capital and operational budgets.

In taking this step it is essential to establish how prospective partners will manage issues relating to health and safety and the protection of the environment, to ensure the wellbeing of the general public, highway users and the workforce.

At Osborne, it is our firm belief that outstanding health, safety and environment performance and outstanding business performance go hand in hand. Our focus with all our local authority frameworks and projects is to deliver exceptional levels of SHE performance, continuously improving and building on the excellent progress to date, which has seen us complete over three years without a single RIDDOR accident on a local authority structures framework.

This level of performance provides us with an excellent platform from which to drive this improvement further, to a goal where everyone goes home safely from our customer’s projects without any injury whatsoever, and we have a positive impact on our people`s health, whilst creating a sustainable future socially, economically and environmentally.

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We are confident that we can deliver this vision by creating an industry leading culture on each and every framework we embark on; investing in the competency, skills, behaviours and leadership of our people and supply chain, and supporting them with effective processes and procedures. Creating an open, learning and sharing culture, whilst striving for innovation and better use of technology will be key to creating this exemplary performance.

However, we do not keep the outcomes of this work to ourselves. Through our monthly STOP Think! Cascade we share lessons learned freely across the wider industry. The publication readership community includes our customers, suppliers, trade bodies and even competitors. We believe (like the aviation industry) that only by openly sharing the learning from our mistakes and failures will we, as a collective industry, really achieve the level of health and safety performance we all strive and wish for.

As with all professional businesses we work in accordance with OHSAS18001 Health and Safety Management System and ISO14001 Environmental Management System on all of our projects; ensuring that we operate our business in a manner where there is no harm to people; no damage to property and no harm to the environment.

However, whilst the processes ensure that we guide and govern our business effectively, we are confident that it is the culture of our people that drives us to deliver an outstanding health, safety, and environmental performance. To testify to this, we delivered £250m worth of projects through 3.5 million man hours without a single RIDDOR reportable accident across the whole of our infrastructure business over a two year period.

Our philosophy is driven from the top of our organisation. Through this strong leadership, we have delivered a step changing cultural development programme to all of our people, our suppliers, and customers. Our programme, STOP Think! has helped us to establish a consistent culture across our projects, creating an open, learning environment where everyone strives to continuously improve our performance and deliver our SHE vision.

When seeking collaborative partners for your highways and infrastructure projects and framework programmes it is vital to consider:

  • If there is absolute certainty of compliance with CDM regulations.
  • If all aspects of site safety including safety Leadership, supervision, culture, collaborative planning, supply chain, assurance, competence, use of technology and site communications have/are being addressed.
  • Are the interests and safety of third parties being proactively addressed, including your teams, the project stakeholders and third parties such as transport authorities, emergency services, local residents, schools and affected parties and businesses?
  • Is there an impactful compliance process in place and is it controlled using a robust set of SHE procedures and guidance notes to monitor, audit and review the effectiveness of the health and safety? Do these proactive and reactive activities support the project team to deliver safely and effectively, and are these then used extensively to monitor and measure compliance against them?
  • How are key framework and project risks being identified and mitigated? This might include working adjacent to live traffic, existing services, security and public safety, falls from height, manual handling, plant movement, and excavations.
  • How are environmental issues being identified and mitigated? Does the Environmental Management Plan take due cognisance of efficient use of natural resources, energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions? Are there adequate measures being proposed/taken in protecting and enhancing ecological diversity, protection from pollution, the use of sustainable materials, noise reduction and waste minimisation?
  • What steps are being taken to increase the level of focus on the mental, physical and emotional health and well-being of people being employed? Are occupational health issues being adequately addressed and are there sufficient health checks being provided? Do employees have access to 24-hour employee assistance programmes and is there a robust programme of health awareness activities captured in a well-being calendar?

Richard King is a Director at Osborne and Chairman of CECA Southern