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Learn From the Leaders

Once again, Mount Anvil has been named the ‘UK’s number one company for Health and Safety’ by the British Safety Council – awarding us their highest score across all sectors for a fourth consecutive year (2014-2017). Mount Anvil is also one of just 11 companies worldwide to win the ‘double’ Sword of Honour and Globe of Honour, demonstrating excellence in the management of health, safety and environmental risks. We caught up with our Health & Safety Director, Simon Walker, to hear more about his team’s latest initiatives to raise the bar in Health & Safety.

Our top business goal, above profit, delivery targets, or sales, is for a world-class Health and Safety culture and we are thrilled that following the latest review, auditor Jerry Henderson-Newton said, “I have never in 28 years of Health and Safety practice seen as high a standard as that witnessed throughout Mount Anvil’s undertakings.” We are especially proud that the British Safety Council audit is not only limited to construction, but is an international audit across all sectors, and we hope to inspire a real shift in the approach businesses have towards Health and Safety.

Simon Walker is at the forefront of this approach and has led projects that have helped us achieve record-breaking results, as well as awards for Environment, Safety & Health, including seven British Safety Council Swords of Honour and five Globes of Honour.

What does your role entail?

My role is to empower the site teams, both our direct employees as well as our subcontractors, to ensure we have a world-class Health and Safety culture. We look at all elements of safety on site, from education and training, to the right processes and systems, and to the use of modern equipment and technology.

Our practices focus on developing a positive Health and Safety culture. We always make it clear to our staff and contractors that they will be rewarded, not punished, for reporting hazards.

What is your approach to proactive Health and Safety?

I always go back to Thomas Edison’s quote, “When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this – you haven’t”. That’s when Health and Safety comes alive, that’s when we start to look at the whole “Mind, Body, Soul” approach, from hazard reporting, to the Centre of Excellence, and from the ‘Phone Home’ initiative, and nutritional advice, to Mindfulness, Sleep and ‘Money Doctor’ workshops. Those things give me great joy and pride, because you can see all the benefit and the value that safety starts to bring to an organisation.

What has made you most proud recently?

Our drive to proactively help manage our people’s health. We employ a full-time Occupational Health Coach who goes to all our sites, educates our employees and provides free medicals for Mount Anvil staff and subcontractors. Just like our approach to safety, it’s about proactive health management.

We also run a number of initiatives, including our Phone Home initiativeMoney Doctor workshops and FitBit partnership. Fitness is not just about going to the gym, it is the sum of all exercise, every moment matters and every bit makes an impact. To motivate our employees to be active, we’ve rolled out FitBit devices to our 200 people. We're also aiming to make fitness more fun and we launched an active lifestyle campaign called ‘Walk to the Moon’, encouraging improved activity, gamifying results, and helping to build a happier, healthier workforce across Mount Anvil.

How do you implement this pro-active approach into hazard reporting?

One of our campaigns has been about getting people to be more conscious of hazards. So not the accident, or the near-miss, but the actual precursor to that. Looking at the unsafe condition then linking that accident chain which brings it forward. When people become more hazard-aware, they become more aware in general.

We found that the quality hazards, i.e. the snags of our properties, go down, because people are more aware if something is not right. So it relates into being a quality issue and that has a massively positive impact on the build process and on the whole job.

As well as aiming to improve the attitude to hazard reporting we are trying to make the process as easy as possible. We have invested in a web-based hazard reporting tool, so that workers can use a smartphone, or tablet to take and upload a photo of a hazard. This creates a real-time hazard log, which we use to decide what actions are needed at each site.

Do you find it costly to run so many Health and Safety initiatives?

We save more money than we spend in the long term. Just think about it, lost time on site is reduced, the quality of the build is increased and the levels of focus and motivation are boosted.

The effort and the cost is definitely worth it. The cost of our occupational health programme is the same as using an external provider. It’s not one big thing; you don’t have to put a doctor’s surgery on site. You change the health checks, the hazard reporting tools, the food in the canteens, you change a whole number of small things, and before you know it the whole culture has changed.

What is the most important quality for a Health and Safety practitioner?

The key part is having empathy, understanding what roles people are doing and what they are going through for those roles. Once you can find people that have that kind of mindset, then they really start to buy into the company culture. They can see the positives and the values that I saw, they start looking at hazards, predicting where the accidents might come, looking at mental health and bridging that gap between systems and procedures to behaviour and culture.

To really bind that mindset, our Health and Safety team are not called ‘Safety Advisors’ or ‘Managers’, they are called ‘Coaches’, because they are there to help, to empower and to coach from a safety point of view. Once people buy into that attitude and the team get it, then they really start to drive it forward.

A prime example of our enthusiasm for coaching is the Mount Anvil National Skills Academy for Construction, which will provide almost 100 apprenticeships, work placements and work experience opportunities for young Londoners. In addition, a further 500 individual learning opportunities will be developed for local schools and colleges to help encourage the next generation of talent into the industry.

Find out more about the Mount Anvil approach to Health and Safety. Discover the accredited training courses provided by the Mount Anvil Centre of Excellence and keep an eye out for our careers opportunities.