Although Advanced Insulations has always had a strong safety record with no major accidents, the leaders of the business recognised that the frequency of small avoidable accidents and near misses was too high. The management team recognised that frequent occurrences of low level incidents can indicate that a more serious incident could be imminent, and that the safety culture across the organisation needed to improve.
As the company grew, the safety culture was no longer fit-for-purpose for a multi-site, global operation and with a concern for employee safety and an eye on harsher sentencing guidelines introduced in 2016, the company’s board and MD tasked QHSE Manager Daniel Howell with rolling out a programme to implement a world-class safety culture.
Daniel says, “Our leadership didn’t want to wait for an accident and then handle the fall out. We knew that a single accident can not only damage the lives of our workers, but finish the business. For the sake of our employees and our reputation, we wanted a health and safety programme that matched our status as a growing, leading manufacturer.”
As the scope of the project was so vast, Daniel sought out the expertise and experience of a company who had overseen similar projects at other UK manufacturers. He immediately turned to EEF, the manufacturer’s organisation – a trusted organisation that Advanced Insulation already received ongoing HSCE advice and guidance through its membership package.
Specifically, Daniel called Ian Hunter, a Health, safety and sustainability expert with EEF who had worked with Advanced Insulation in the past and already had an understanding of the organisation’s business, risks and culture.
Ian and Daniel worked together to develop an approach that met the organisation’s goals and was rooted in best practice health and safety principles and research.
“We realised as a company that we didn’t need a huge financial outlay to make a relatively large change and get some good results,” Daniel says.
During the initial stages of the project Ian worked with Daniel to understand the drivers, objectives and goals for the business where it became clear that Advanced Insulations needed a clear vision and strategy for a safe working culture.
The first step in the programme was to establish the baseline by assessing the current practices and level of safety awareness within the organisation. EEF designed and implemented a programme of interviews that covered the multiple roles and levels of the organisation to understand the workforce’s knowledge, behaviours, perceptions and awareness of health and safety in the business.
With a baseline established, Ian and Daniel developed a safety brand ‘Think safe. Act safe. Be safe.’ along with a mission statement, 10 safety commandments and an action plan that gained board approval covering four areas:
- Communication and consultation – ensuring all employees are empowered and encouraged to feedback on safety concerns through regular meetings and other communication mechanisms
- Competency – identifying required knowledge and training in safety for each job role based on best practice and legal requirements
- Key risks – requiring all locations to develop risk reduction plans for their particular safety risks with a plan for continuous improvement
- Safety behaviour – addressing the perception that safety wasn’t something that was taken extremely seriously by management and emphasising to all the importance of positive personal behaviour relating to safety
“Having Ian on board from the beginning helped us focus in on our priorities and head down the right path.” Daniel explains.
The programme launched in April 2016 with a leadership event led by the members of Advanced Insulation’s safety steering committee, where the organisation’s top executives from around the globe came together to discuss the new approach to safety and hear guest speakers. During the following months, the company held off-site, interactive safety events for 30-60 employees at a time until all employees at all sites worldwide had participated. The events secured buy-in from company leaders as well as employees in the safety strategy and set the standard for the company’s approach to health and safety.
The first stage has been a success.
“We’ve already seen results, with more employees reporting small accidents or near misses. Without this information we don’t know what’s happening on the floor and can’t make safety improvements to prevent similar, or more serious incidents occurring in future,” Daniel says.
Line managers are now more engaged in health and safety and provide regular updates to their teams on safety improvements and the reasons behind the improvements – something the initial interviews uncovered was lacking in the communications.
A great early benefit of the programme has been the response by customers of Advanced Insulation’s increased focus on safety and competency.
“Our employees visit ship yards and factories around the world and some of our customers have reported that our teams are suggesting important safety improvements to them as well. We’ve gotten quite a bit of praise from them for it,” Daniel says, “Our customers are very interested in what we’re doing and how we’re going about it.”
The company expects to see continued improvement and results as the programme progresses to the next stage.
About the company
Advanced Insulation specialises in the manufacture and application of unique syntactic phenolic resin based foam insulation and fire protection systems. Headquartered in Gloucester, the company has four UK locations and several installation units around the world. Advanced Insulation has been awarded twice 'The Queen's Award' for Enterprise under the category of International Trade (2012) and Innovation (2013).Their continued growth is spurred by high profile customers, including Exxon, Shell and BP.