This is the second in our series of posts focused on health and safety successes and illustrates the use of dynamic risk assessments to safeguard workers working remotely in small teams.
It’s common for companies to introduce significant health and safety initiatives because of a negative event – a major accident, for example, or a critical report. It is unusual, however, for organisations to look for substantial improvements when their health and safety record is already good.
That’s exactly what happened at Wessex Water, however, who implemented dynamic risk assessments among a raft of initiatives to further improve their health and safety performance.
Unlike most other utility companies, Wessex Water keeps its engineering and construction element in-house in the form of a subsidiary. This subsidiary employs almost 700 people, with most of them working remotely, operating from vans in pairs.
As a result, there is a significant responsibility on individual employees to manage risk. Common risks they face include traffic, working at depth, working at height, and working close to tidal water.
A Good Track Record, But Not Good Enough
Wessex Water decided to make changes to its approach to health and safety around 2013. At the time, it had an impressive health and safety record and had not experienced any significant incidents.
In addition, staff health and safety training was effective, plus there was a proactive health and safety team who helped bring about positive change in the business.
Despite these successes, Wessex Water wanted to address some lingering concerns – stubbornly persistent incident rates and near misses.
What Wessex Water Did
Mike Moriarty, board member of Wessex Water and managing director of the engineering and construction division, drove the change to bring down incident rates and near misses.
One of the initiatives was to bring in an external company to run a workshop to demonstrate to employees not only how easily accidents can occur without the right approach to risk, but also the devastating impact those accidents can have.
In addition to the workshop, the organisation also introduced an initiative called Make It Right. The aim was to change employee behaviour across all levels of the organisation to give everyone a voice, to ensure every opinion on health and safety was listened to, and to ensure the organisation took action on the advice and recommendations given to it by employees.
At the centre of this initiative was the principle that safety must come first and that unsafe practices are never okay.
Structured Approach to Dynamic Risk Assessments
As employees typically work remotely in small teams, Wessex Water also put in place a dynamic risk assessment procedure. It called this the Take 5 to Check 5 initiative. Essentially, it involves employees carrying out five checks on every job:
- Ensuring the task and instructions are clear
- Checking they have the right skills and resources to complete the job
- Identifying hazards and how they might cause harm
- Analysing the controls to check they are sufficient
- Making a final assessment to determine whether it is okay to continue with the job
Was It Successful?
The first success the organisation achieved was getting buy-in from its employees. Crucially, members of the board bought-in too, taking an active part in the implementation of the various initiatives.
Wessex Water achieved its main objective as well – to reduce the incident rate. As a result of its efforts, it received the Sir George Earle Trophy, the highest level of recognition awarded by RoSPA.
Wessex Water’s efforts also demonstrate that striving for continuous health and safety improvement will deliver results.