Simon Walker, health & safety director at specialist central London housing developer Mount Anvil talks about proactively managing risks, the use of technology in health and safety and helping the industry get better.
Tell us a little about Mount Anvil.
We are a specialist central London residential developer, creating homes and communities in sought-after locations that leave a positive and long-lasting legacy. We are both a developer and principal contractor, so we oversee and manage the entire process – from initial acquisition, to construction, sales and marketing and after-purchase care.
Our current developments include the 31-storey Dollar Bay overlooking Canary Wharf, the 36-storey Lexicon in Islington and The Eagle, a 26-storey development near to Old Street roundabout.
Our approach has been recognised through a number of awards. We’ve just been named developer of the year (less than 1,000 units) for the second year running, and for eight consecutive years we have been ranked in the Sunday Times 100 Best Small Companies to Work For.
What does your role entail?
I am the health and safety director and it’s my job to empower all of our workers – both direct employees and subcontractors – to ensure we have a world class health and safety culture.
As well as focusing on education to ensure everyone knows how to work safely, I ensure we have the right processes, systems and tools in place to identify and manage risks. I firmly believe in giving workers at all levels responsibility and decision-making powers so they proactively ensure excellent safety standards.
What are your main health and safety considerations?
Space in central London is a premium so we are increasingly creating developments of up to 40 stories. These are complex and challenging. We spend a lot of time pre-planning to minimise risks and hazards before we even get on site – for instance, ensuring the safe movement of materials and vehicles given the proximity of the public and highway traffic. Ensuring the comfort of our teams onsite is paramount. So, for instance, we provide welfare facilities across the whole building rather than workers having to descend to the ground floor to access them.
What initiatives have worked for you?
Our health and safety initiatives are all badged under our Safety Never Stops programme. We run company-wide internal marketing campaigns to educate our people, encourage engagement and, ultimately, change behaviour. This is activated through onsite promotional materials and we’re currently focusing on hazard identification and management. This is supplemented by training for site workers and senior management, which helps improve everyone’s perception of risks and knowledge of safe working methods. We also run a monthly health and safety league table that ranks subcontractors’ performance, and fosters a competitive spirit to be ranked as the safest subcontractor.
In November 2013 we launched a customised online hazard reporting tool, which is smartphone and iPadenabled, that allows us to log and manage hazards in real-time and spot trends across our sites. Thanks to the Safety Never Stops campaign and the reporting tool, we have seen a 90% increase in hazard reporting and a 60% decrease in safety incidents compared to the same period last year.
We also recently employed a full-time paramedic to focus on proactive health management – the often forgotten part of health and safety. He works across all of our sites providing information and guidance on health issues and also offers free mini health checks for all staff and subcontractors.
What are your safety plans for the next few years?
With occupational health a key issue for the industry, we intend to maintain our focus on improving the general health of all workers. Our successful approach to managing health and safety was recently recognised with the maximum rating in the Five Star health and safety audit. This is a fantastic achievement, but we’re not going to rest on our laurels. We want to use this award as a platform to get even better.
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