Collen setting the standard in Health & Safety

24 May , 2018  

In keeping with its ethos of providing a quality service and forging long-lasting relationships, Collen Construction deploys a proactive and progressive approach to implementing the best possible Health & Safety initiatives. It was no surprise when Collen made the winner’s enclosure once more at the recent National Irish Safety Organisation Awards. We met Health & Safety Manager Joe O’Dwyer to find out more about the company’s robust, industry-leading H&S drive.

Collen Construction’s exceptional safety management system was acknowledged at the 2017 NISO Awards when the long-established construction giant – which has delivered over two centuries of building excellence – gleaned the Regional Award East accolade on the night of the 26th annual occupational safety awards.

Collen is a regular winner at the NISO Awards, having also received a Distinction twelve months earlier. These awards recognise the company’s consistent approach to raising and implementing Health & Safety standards to the highest level. Collen’s firm commitment to Health & Safety starts at Director level and flows throughout the organisation. As such, awards collected by the company are testament to the hard work and dedication of both staff and supply chain.

“The NISO award recognises the input of the entire Collen team and our subcontractors,” Health & Safety manager Joe O’Dwyer notes. “Three thick folders were submitted for those awards and it took us four or five weeks to prepare out submission, so it was nice to win something.

“The award is testament to all our staff on site; we couldn’t reach our Health & Safety goals without the buy-in of our site teams.”

The sheer scope of Collen’s Health & Safety efforts is staggering. Alongside Joe, the company employs no fewer than 15 Health & Safety officers, who are based in Ireland, Germany and Sweden.

As the Irish construction market has entered a major growth phase in Dublin, with activity outside the city also increasing in certain areas, Collen Construction is well placed for growth but wants to ensure that its team and systems are best in class.

Just over a year ago, the Collen team completed a major upgrade of the company’s management systems and became the first Tier One contractor in Ireland to have its systems audited by NSAI to the latest ISO standards. This was implemented despite consistently holding an A grade in the CIF Safe T management system, as the team wanted to raise the bar.

A training programme was completed to familiarise staff with the improved management systems.  However, it was further decided that systems are only part of a robust culture and in order to deliver continual improvement Collen’s approach to leadership needed to be looked at.

External advice was sought from Hugh O’Donnell and his company, Ingenium. Hugh was identified by Collen as an Irish safety leader, having operated for all the major oil and gas companies globally in his previous role as CEO for a large Irish Mechanical & Electrical company.

Collen engaged with Ingenium Training and Consulting to develop an innovative and transformational Leadership seminar/workshop which their 120-strong operations team was invited to attend in Croke Park in November, 2016. There were two objectives to this workshop (which was launched by Construction Director David Lee), both of which would be adopted into company policies and procedures: to agree a vision; and to develop the Collen Safety Leadership Charter.

The seminar established an agreed vision for the future, discussed and agreed a charter which, through alignment and communication of common objectives, will maximise the effectiveness of the team, and empower competent emerging leadership to differentiate Collen from its competitors as the construction sector continues this growth phase. The Ingenium-facilitated discussion established the Collen Construction vision: ‘To be recognised as a Leader in Safety and Project Execution in the markets in which Collen operates’.

Collen Construction now had an agreed vision, and through leadership and increased focus it will drive the next level of organisational performance in both safety and project execution whilst building the required leadership bench strength over the long-term.

The charter advocates a continuous improvement of healthy and safe workplaces and communities, on Collen’s projects, as they strive to be an industry leader in safety. The charter allows the project leadership to showcase their commitment to this new set of behaviours and attitudes.

The next step for Collen was to establish a shared safety vision and charter with its supply chain. To this end, Donal Hennessy, Commercial Director, together with Ingenium, planned a supply chain event titled ‘Safety for All’ in Croke Park in May, 2017, the purpose of which was to facilitate the implementation of the Safety Leadership Charter for the subcontractor supply chain.

The engaging event was attended by over 100 subcontractor Managing Directors / Directors and focused on the safety leadership traits which Collen Construction expects from its subcontractors. The co-developed Subcontractor Supply Chain Safety Charter resulted, supporting the Collen Vision.

Feedback from the supply chain was universally positive, with many commenting on the innovative way in which Collen Construction is advocating safety leadership with its own team in conjunction with its subcontractor supply chain.

The final element identified by Collen’s management team was that a culture of safety leadership, when it works, allows everyone to feel accountable for safety, where employees go beyond the call of duty to identify unsafe conditions and behaviours and are comfortable intervening to correct them through clearly defined processes that promote disclosure and near-miss reporting, for example.

To facilitate this process, they are rolling out the P4 Safety Leadership programme which is embedded in the Subcontractor Supply Chain Safety Charter. The P4 Safety Leadership programme will be used to generate knowledge and awareness of safety leadership traits and behaviours, with P4 Champions identified and trained across projects and this will be in the form of a safety walk down process. It will provide the ‘glue’ that drives the new culture.

Tracking progress with these elements will result in Collen Construction having the vision, leadership capacity, focus and the strategy to drive the next level of organisational performance in both safety and project execution whilst building the required leadership bench strength with the long-term plan in mind.

On Wednesday, September 20th, Collen held the next event for its operations team at Croke Park, where this time the focus was on ‘Leadership and Behavioural Safety’. Innovatively, the services of Annette Tierney’s Theatre at Work were engaged, Annette having used innovative theatre-based learning methods since 2000 to provide high impact solutions in areas such as leadership, behavioural safety, culture change and commercial skills.

The workshop, ‘Terminal’, illustrated a safety case-study based on a real event during the construction of an airport terminal extension. Whilst working at height a team of contractors allow a steel girder to fall into a public area, injuring two travellers. Through facilitated discussion, topical safety themes are explored including responsibility, rule-breaking, intervention and the human factors that influence a culture of safety.

As well as being fun, this workshop engaged people in the benefits of safe practices; overcoming key challenges in changing behaviour and culture by generating awareness, understanding and ultimately ownership.

Collen intends to re-engage with both its operations team and supply chain towards mid-2018 to listen to feedback as to how their vision and charters are working to ensure a continually improving safety culture is maintained.

Collen Construction was instrumental in the Construction Industry Federation’s Construction Safety Week 2017 and took part in the CIF’s ‘Stand Down for Safety’ initiative on Monday, October 23rd. All Collen sites & Head Office participated in this stand down.

In support of Construction Safety Week, Collen also launched its ‘Near Miss’ reporting campaign. Near Miss events are gold dust as they can highlight a weakness. A number of Near Miss events can identify a trend and help the manner in which we focus our efforts on eliminating accidents. What initially appears to be bad luck (wrong place/wrong time) may, on analysis, turn out to be a chain of failures and errors that have led almost inevitably to the event. To prevent adverse events, effective risk control measures, which address the immediate, underlying and root causes must be provided.

“We were one of the principal sponsors of Construction Safety Week and the five videos that were shown (Safety at Height; Plant & Equipment; Occupational Health – Dust; Mental Health; and Driving for Work) were all filmed on our sites to show our support and to get the message out there. The CIF want to focus on the positives of what companies are doing for Health & Safety and we fully support this.

“The Near Miss reporting programme was launched the same week. If you can get people to report a near miss where there was the potential to cause serious harm to a person or property, then you can address and correct the issue, reducing the risk of having future incidents.”

Part of the Collen team for six years, Joe concludes: “Safety is driven from the top in Collen. Our MD and Chairman of our SHEQ Committee Tommy Drumm and David Lee really drive Health & Safety here and they were fully behind our three safety leadership events in Croke Park. We were already accredited to Safe T Cert and ISO standards with the NSAI but we wanted to do something different to really get our site teams and subcontractors thinking about safety.

“Health & Safety is not just a tick-box exercise. We’ll organise another event next summer to make sure our standards in this critical area continue to improve.”

Firmly established as one of Ireland’s premier Tier One construction companies, Collen Construction is a seventh-generation, family-owned business established in 1810 with a strong reputation for building quality and excellence. The company has successfully tendered and negotiated projects for a range of clients including large multinational corporations, private companies, local authorities and state authorities, establishing an outstanding reputation for delivering complex projects on time and within budget.

Taken from Building Ireland Magazine, February 2018, Vol 4 No 2