Wills Bros’ dedication to health & Safety acknowledged again

14 May , 2019  

Industry-leading civil engineering contractor Wills Bros Ltd. received a Higher Distinction at the 2018 All Ireland Occupational Safety Awards ceremony in Killarney’s Great Southern Hotel on Friday, October 12th. Building Ireland touched base with EHS Manager Peter Quigley to gauge his reaction.

It was certainly no surprise when Wills Bros was announced as a Higher Distinction winner at the 27th annual All Ireland Occupational Safety Awards as the diverse, long-standing civil engineering contracting company is regularly in the winners’ enclosure due to its robust Environmental, Health & Safety procedures, having also this year scooped the Team of the Year accolade at the Safety & Health Excellence Awards.

Environmental Health and Safety Manager for Wills Bros Ltd. for the past 15 years, Peter Quigley is a Chartered Environmentalist who works with technology and people to achieve an exceptional EHS performance across the organisation to guarantee the wellbeing of clients, workers and the general public alike.

Although occupational awards are clearly not the reason why operations such as Wills Bros place such a major emphasis on delivering outstanding systems and results in the critical area of Environment, Health & Safety, Peter confirms that collecting a Higher Distinction at the NISO (National Irish Safety Organisation) / NISG (Northern Ireland Safety Group) Awards was a welcome bonus indeed:

“These All Ireland awards are extremely important and it’s great that NISO runs them every year,” he notes. “This is the main awards ceremony for Health & Safety throughout Irish construction North and South. The awards are highly-regarded across the industry and it reassures clients that they are getting a lot of quality in Health & Safety when dealing with Wills Bros.”

Wills Bros has always been at the forefront in terms of EHS compliance. “A lot of it has to do with expectations of clients, which are changing and increasing all the time,” Peter continues. “Some of the big new players, like Irish Water, for example, are looking into these systems in great detail and they won’t do business with you unless you have the best systems in place and up to date.

“As opposed to Health & Safety, they are tagging on Environmental as well and it’s now referred to as Environmental Health & Safety. Sustainability is vitally important, also. Expectations of the client are increasing all the time and we have to move in response to that.”

To achieve optimal performance, Wills Bros’  Quality, Health & Safety and Environmental management systems are fully integrated. “We are accredited to ISO 9001 for Quality, ISO 14001 for Environmental Management and are one of the first companies in Ireland to have converted to the new ISO 45001 standard for Occupational Health & Safety. All three of these management systems are integrated,” Peter confirms.

As EHS Manager, Peter delivers Construction Safety Plans, Environmental Management Plans and Waste Management Plans projects, working alongside his board, colleagues, suppliers and others developing a sustainable business plan for the company that achieves growth, meets or exceeds performance targets and optimises operating risk.

His objectives include eliminating injuries and property loss; growing a sustainable safety culture that learns from the way Wills Bros work; motivating and empowering individuals to achieve great EHS performances; analysis of work systems against international standards to build-in resilience and robustness; identifying and evaluating the company’s Environmental impacts; implementing Project Environmental Management Plans to achieve maximum environmental and biodiversity protection and maximum business competitiveness; and making workplaces better for workers, business owners and stakeholders alike.

“It’s all geared towards what the client wants and ensuring that their reputations are upheld when we go to work on a project where they are spending a lot of money,” Peter continues. “Our goal is to ensure that clients get the full benefit of what we are doing in EHS. They don’t want to see any waste lying about or any energy inefficiencies and they want everybody to be not just safe but also clean and tidy.

“These demands are ultimately put on our workers on the ground. While the client is paramount, so are our personnel. There’s a real battle going on to get the best workers and they want to see that they have good pay, a career and also opportunities to learn and advance. Building is a quality lifestyle and if you have a good quality life balance, with Health to the fore, then there are many benefits.”

Peter is keen to stress that a team effort is behind the strong Health & Safety drive at Wills Bros: “It starts with the founders and directors Charles and James Wills and you then have the engineers, who are supported by people like myself in EHS, the Quality guys and the HR guys. It’s a family business and another generation has come on board as well as great enhancements in technology and use of computers … but at the end of the day, on site, it’s still physical, tactile and hands-on work. You have to be agile in your approach to each project and appreciate that there are layers upon layers involved and all of these layers have to be switched on.

“For intricate work using machinery in the middle of a town, for example, you have to have a stable team around you and Wills Bros can provide that. With our systems approach, it’s all based on people. We have about 300 people employed directly and it’s all based around strong teamwork. If you have 100 people working on a job, up to 300 could have worked on that in total and our systems have to manage all those people.

“In 2017, for instance, we would have had approximately 2,500 people who worked on site on our various projects, including subcontractors and engineering consultants, and our management system oversees all of these workers. Everyone working on the project has to sign up to the plan that we have devised.”

The four areas focussed on are: people; plant and machinery; safe systems at work; and supervision of these. Tools used are training; risk assessment; inspection and monitoring; incident or near-miss investigation; and reviews. “Safety For Life is our motto and we try to keep it as simple as we can,” says Peter.

“It’s all about looking after your people and having a clear plan that everyone can follow. Lean manufacturing is a well-known concept but people are now talking about lean construction. The five S’s for us are Sort (have a plan); Set in place (organise your workspace); Shine (clean as you go); Standardise (don’t use custom solutions); and Sustain (you can sustain yourself from beginning to end if you use the first four).

“Our supervisors will look at those five and make sure our guys are competent and fully trained, that they have the right tools and that the system is ordered and certified, that a job safety plan is in place, and that they are being supervised and checked.”

At the forefront of infrastructural development, Wills Bros Ltd. is a diverse civil engineering contracting company with an annual turnover in excess of €90,000,000. Their success has been the result of their experience as main contractor in the execution of both large and small contracts across a varied spectrum ranging from infrastructure and major motorway contracts, road realignments, landfill sites, drainage schemes, marine works, bridge construction, site developments and land reclamation, water related services, telecommunications, mineral extracting and processing, and the leisure / public amenity sector.

Mayo-headquartered Wills Brothers was formed in 1972 as a plant hire and civil engineering business as a joint partnership between James and Charles Wills. The company has delivered a vast number of civil engineering projects throughout the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK utilising its extensive fleet of owned plant and equipment with all projects being supervised by its own in-house team of long-serving staff.

Will Bros’ client base is extensive, ranging from nearly all local authorities within Ireland, airport authorities and TII (Transport Infrastructure Ireland) to major private developers, utilities and associated construction industries. Works in progress at the time of writing included major projects for Irish Water, Dublin Port Authority, the OPW (Bandon Flood Relief Scheme) and the Northern Ireland Department for Infrastructure (the A6 dual carriageway and Dungiven bypass).

Wills Bros Ltd.,

Ballylahan Bridge,


County Mayo,


Tel: 094 9256221

Fax: 094 9257221

Email: [email protected]

Web: www.willsbros.com

Taken from Building Ireland Magazine, January 2019, Vol 5 No 1