We need to tackle behavourial safety to win the war on injuries

Rajkiran Kandola, SafetySmart Project Manager
10 September 2018
Amey employees wearing PPE
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Despite a downward trend in injury rates in UK workplaces, accident occurrence remains an ongoing issue for the workforce. Results from the RSSB annual survey reveal that there were 164 major injuries in 2016/17. No one can be happy with this state of affairs.

The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report that overall accident frequency has reached an ‘accident plateau’ above zero (HSE, 2016) – a point in which current methods, such as changes in legislation, organisational policies, leadership training have potentially exhausted their value. It appears we are at an impasse.

The HSE report 31.2 million days lost in the UK due to work-related illness and workplace injury. Amey has an excellent safety record, however the reduction of accidents and injuries in the Consulting and Rail business unit has reached a plateau above zero. It’s clear that we now need examine behaviours and attitudes as a contributing factor. Otherwise, we will be forever stuck at this plateau.

A Knowledge Transfer Partnership

In an attempt to drive Amey closer to achieve our Target Zero objective, our Consulting and Rail business unit are currently working on a three-year collaborative project with Leeds Beckett University on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) funded by Innovate UK. The aim is to develop a long-term behavioural safety strategy that focuses on researching psychological and human factor variables that may influence safety. The project, which is set to end December 2018, turns the focus on thoughts not actions.

The importance of research

We understand that in order to develop a successful embedded behavioural safety framework, time needs to be dedicated to understanding the business, the workforce, the factors influencing safety, current processes, policies, and engagement. This all takes time but we realise that behavioural safety is not a quick win - rather a long-term, iterative process to embed. But we want this programme to be fit for purpose within Amey – not an ‘off-the-shelf’ programme.

To date, the project has supported the business unit to collect large-scale scientific data on safety attitudes, stress, production pressures, job demands, mood and workload from over 1,600 employees. Although this type of data collection has been a lengthy process, it has allowed us to analyse different types of safety data that extend beyond traditional accident reporting statistics and incident root cause analysis, which can be limited in their success.

Life beyond a KTP

We are keen to ensure that a behavioural safety strategy is firmly embedded beyond the KTP by implementing a bottom-up approach – we firmly believe that this is the first step to understand psychological and human factor variables associated with accident risk.

This will be done using an in-house ‘toolkit’ called the ThinkSafe Toolkit which is made up various scales that are related to well-being – for instance, stress indicators and organisational such as safety climate.

Data derived from the ‘toolkit’ can be used to gather a detailed understanding of safety beyond traditional in-house safety indicators, such as close call reporting. The ThinkSafe toolkit will better inform us of behaviours that may need some consideration to improve safety records.

We’re excited by the project and the insights it will offer up as a foundation of behavourial safety to break the deadlock on improving health and safety in the workforce.

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