Continue to improve

Using his company as an example of best practice, John McCann talks about the benefits of creating a health and safety culture

For over 40 years, Nottingham-based civil and electrical engineering construction company, J McCann & Co Ltd (McCann), has been successfully delivering large-scale, highly-complex, labour-intensive infrastructure projects for both public and private sector clients. Clients such as Highways England and many of the UK’s Local Authorities – in the process gaining an enviable reputation for reliably completing jobs on schedule and on budget.

And, ask MD John McCann how the company has achieved and maintained this success for over four decades, continuing to thrive even during more recent ‘belt-tightening’ times where Local Authorities have seen unprecedented cuts to budgets? His response is clear.

“I’m certain our ongoing business success stems from our deep-rooted ‘health and safety’ culture,” says John. “Prioritising the health, safety and wellbeing of our staff and everyone we work with is the foundation upon which we deliver our services. Much more than merely complying to legislation or ‘following the rules’, we constantly strive to create an atmosphere where everyone at the company feels valued. It’s about making them feel empowered to either speak out without fear of reprisal, or commended for highlighting a safer, more sensible way of doing something. It’s giving everyone a voice that is listened to, where stopping to think about safety is second nature – a given.”

Over the years, McCann’s has introduced many working practices that have helped create and sustain this ingrained health and safety culture. As well as employees having direct access to the company’s managers and H&S department, where they are encouraged to discuss or report issues or solutions as soon as they arise, there are also elected Safety Representatives who attend their own meetings where managers aren’t present – purely to promote open discussion amongst workers who may not have experienced such a unique, transparent culture in previous employment. These meetings are documented and the minutes made available for all employees.

The company continuously updates methods, materials, equipment, and leads the industry by regularly adopting standards above the legal requirements. It also operates a system whereby employee, sub contractors, clients and those affected by McCann’s works are encouraged to complete ‘Observation Cards’ – a ‘no blame’ reporting system reinforcing McCann’s commitment to listening to its workforce.

Effective health and safety auditing is used by the company to proactively monitor and control its safety performance on site and to control its effective implementation of the H&S Policy. In addition, employees are encouraged and empowered to report incidents that could have the potential to cause harm to line management who are responsible for completing weekly documented safety audits. Line managers are trained in the techniques of safety auditing to ensure that audits examine all areas of risk, methods of working, work equipment etc, and are used to promote best practice and continual improvement.

Site audits are also carried out independent of McCann’s line managers by the HSEQ Manager and Safety Advisors. All incidents are recorded, analysed and discussed at site level and again at safety committee meetings where additional corrective actions are implemented to prevent reoccurrence.

With Defibrillators in all McCann’s permanent offices, ‘Safety Days’ four times a year where every harness and lifting accessory is checked for compliance and safety, plus the provision of helmet-mounted ICE health / personal information tags, it’s practices like these that have lead to McCann’s achieving impressive industry accolades. Most recently, McCann took home a coveted Gold Award at this year’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) Health and Safety Awards ceremony. This award “recognises their commitment to maintaining an excellent health and safety record and raises the bar for other organisations to aspire to,” said Julia Small, RoSPA’s head of awards and events.

“From deciding on our approach and methodology for delivering a project, the pricing, planning, right through to the handover documentation that gives the owner / operator a clear understanding of all the issues and risks going forward – health and safety is always our first consideration,” adds John.

“A health and safety culture is all about looking after those people that work with you. No one wants to carry the burden of knowing that through their actions or inaction they allowed others to come to harm or even worse. This is why we at McCann are proud to have adopted the mantra ‘Nothing is so important that in cannot be done safely’ and it’s a phrase that we believe should be deep-set in the foundations of every business within our industry.

“Strong leadership is required to make improvements to a health and safety culture, but once staff see that management are not just ‘ticking the boxes’ and are actually leading by example, positive improvements are more easily cascaded through a company and the health and safety message will be fully-embraced.

“By engaging staff at all levels we develop co-operation and commitment to improve safety. Fostering a good attitude towards health and safety not only reduces the occurrences of harm, it has been shown to reduce staff time off through work-related stress and fatigue, develops stability, and improves staff decision-making and performance. This all leads to creating a consistently high level of service and professionalism, which helps build and maintain a positive reputation amongst existing and potential customers. In my opinion, every business should continually aim to improve their health and safety culture, irrespective of the industry – the benefits are immeasurable.”

John McCann is MD, J McCann & Co. Ltd. McCann is a leading civil and electrical engineering construction company which operates throughout the UK on major road, rail and airport infrastructure projects for public and private sector clients. Since its formation some 40 years ago it has developed wide range of specialist contracting services to support the successful delivery of major infrastructure projects throughout the UK.

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