A safety programme with attitude

August 19, 2015

Liquid asphalt with a temperature of 90oC, ten tonnes of steel and new framework measuring 100 metres high. Such things are encountered by many colleagues in the construction sector on a daily basis. This puts them in a vulnerable position, where accidents can literally and figuratively be just around the corner. It is thus essential to work in a safe manner; and this involves more than just wearing helmets or safety footwear.

See, address and act

Working safely is more than just complying with rules and regulations. It is primarily about creating awareness; (preventively) recognising unsafe situations and addressing one another about unsafe behaviour - irrespective of whether this involves immediate colleagues, supervisors, sub-contractors or clients. It is then important to act, so safe situations can be created once again. But this can be a challenge because people are encountering ever increasing workloads and always have their hands full.

Since 2013, this change in culture has been actively encouraged and safeguarded via the GO! safety programme (Geen Ongevallen = No Accidents). This programme is based on three principles:

  1. Changing mindsets and behaviour in the field of safety.
  2. Achieving a clear and uniform level of safety and insight into safety.
  3. Safety-related collaboration in the supply chain.

And GO! has been effective because safety at Heijmans has improved over the past two years.

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App-ing and coaching

GO! was implemented on a bottom-up basis, starting with the executive organisation where the greatest shift needed to be realised. And Reijer Kruisifikx, project manager Infra Large Projects Department at Heijmans, believes the approach has been successful: “Safety-related awareness has improved considerably since the introduction of GO! You can devise and impose all kinds of rules but, at the end of the day, safety must be supported and implemented by employees. For instance, GO! coaches have made it easier to talk about safety-related issues and anyone can use the GO! APP to easily report unsafe situations. And this approach is coming to fruition. Dangerous situations are now being reported, discussed and structurally resolved.”

Actions, not just words

Clients have also appreciated Heijmans' focus on safety. Paul Fondse, senior manager/partner at Brink Management | Advies: “On behalf of the Municipality of Rotterdam, we served as construction manager on the Timmerhuis project. The Timmerhuis was a Design & Build contract. So it was good to see that Heijmans placed great emphasis on safety; while creating the design, during preparation activities and during actual realisation. And this was not Irrespective of position, more people should address each other about safety-related issues at the construction site. Petra Verspui, deputy Acquisitions director, Municipality of Rotterdam only on paper, but also in practice via instructions to workers on the site, permanent supervision from managers, reports, specific initiatives and inspections. Fantastic!”

A step back

However, situations can still be encountered where it is almost impossible to work in a safe manner. For instance, tight spaces when performing maintenance activities or difficult-to-install safety devices during dismantling activities. Situations which could actually have been prevented during the design phase. That is why extra research was carried out into safety-related situations encountered by technicians, maintenance engineers and users. The results were then used to better safeguard safety in each phase of the design process (sketch, provisional, definitive and executive design). This has helped to address relevant criteria and involve the required disciplines, so the safest possible design is realised. This approach will be implemented in the first pilot projects later in the year.