Alan Rogers, HSE manager for European operations at Wyman-Gordon Ltd, a manufacturer of complex metal forgings, talks about motivating staff on health and safety matters.
Tell us a little about Wyman-Gordon
We manufacture complex and high-performance forged metal components that are used in applications such as the manufacture of aircraft engines and as seamless, heavy duty pipework for power generation plants and offshore oil and gas platforms. Part of the PCC Energy Group, we operate three plants in the UK and one in the Czech Republic. This includes our Livingston facility in Scotland, which features a 30,000 tonne hot metal forging press – the biggest in Europe – and our Lincoln facility, which has a large counterblow forging hammer.
What does your role entail?
I have overall responsibility for health and safety in our European division, which employs around 500 people. I work closely with the engineers and managers who run the industrial processes to ensure we are complying with health and safety law and keeping everyone safe, and I have three health, safety and environmental professionals who help to implement the required procedures.
What are your main health and safety considerations?
The forging presses are huge and complex machines that work at temperatures as high as 1,340ºC, so it’s a hot and noisy environment with complex lifting operations taking place, often in confined areas.
The size of the presses makes it impractical to fit exhaust ventilation to extract fumes, so we use large industrial fans to blow the fume away. Where necessary, workers involved in forging also undergo annual lung function and hearing checks by occupational nurses to prevent any health problems arising. The giant presses feature windows that are up to five metres wide, making it impractical to guard them, so workers are trained to stand away from the window in refuge areas where they are safe from the risk of any materials being ejected during the forging process.
What initiatives have worked for you?
In recent years we have focused heavily on getting all workers involved in health and safety, for example, by creating an environment where staff feel comfortable reporting concerns and near misses and suggesting improvements.
Myself and the three safety professionals carry out daily walkarounds where we encourage staff to inform us or their team leaders of any health and safety issues, and the general managers also hold informal coffee mornings where staff are free to discuss health and safety. All the plants feature ‘metric’ noticeboards providing updates on each department’s safety performance alongside issues such as production and quality performance, and we’ve adapted the British Safety Council’s ‘Speak Up, Stay Safe’ mantra so it appears on all our communications with staff.
We never discipline anyone for raising or reporting health and safety issues, and our culture of openness means that, if HSE inspectors visit, we’re always happy for them to meet our staff safety representatives in private, since we have nothing to hide.
We cannot say for certain whether these steps have improved health and safety performance, but all the managers have noted increased employee engagement in health and safety matters and workers have reported improvements in health and safety in anonymous questionnaires.
What are your safety plans for the next few years?
The Livingston plant has achieved both five stars in the British Safety Council’s health and safety audit and the Sword of Honour in 2013, and I intend to put the Lincoln facility through the audit later this year. These achievements show our staff, customers, partners and investors that we are looking after our employees properly, and this care translates into better business performance.
Our Livingston plant has also won a Silver award from the Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives for our employee wellness programme, which includes free blood pressure and cholesterol checks, and I’d like to build on this success.
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