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November 26, 2018

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Hazard perception

Assessing hazard competency

Continuing innovation in construction month, Simon Walker, Health & Safety Director at Mount Anvil, explains how he has used hazard perception software Hazception to change the way the company assess competency through what the operative sees or doesn’t see.

Mind the gap

Mount Anvil is a residential developer working predominantly in central London, acting as both client and principle contractor across all schemes. In 2013, the company adopted a new approach to health and safety management by proactively managing hazard and trends on the data produced.

Hazards are all links in the incident chain, if any one of these hazards is removed, the incident will likely never happen. Simple hazards can have serious consequences. Mount Anvil used hazards collated from site inspections, safety walks and incident reports to build an online hazard real-time reporting database where hazards could be trend analysed on a daily, hourly, or minute-by-minute basis.

This approach gave the company wider visibility and allowed them to be more targeted with safety campaigns and focus on areas and issues that really matter.

The number of hazards reported went from an average of 120 hazards logged and actioned per month in Q2 2013 to an average of 1,081 hazards logged and actioned per month by Q2 of 2014. Mount Anvil averaged one RIDDOR per year until this point, this was followed by three years RIDDOR free after adopting the approach. The Accident Incident Rate of all other incidents, such as first aid, near misses also dropped by 64% between 2013 and 2014 and continued to drop by 5-9% every year thereafter until 2016 when it levelled out. The number of hazards logged also increased gradually to avg. 1,227 logged and closed out.

In 2016 Mount Anvil reviewed the approach to health & safety with this levelling out performance and decided the issue was not necessarily in what people did see and what they did log, but more so what operatives and mangers did not see. Put simply their perception or altered perception of hazards and risk was where the next big health & safety improvement would come. For example, take a building site where there are many trades working, the plumber will tend to see the hazards that relate to plumbing, but they will have to walk the whole site to get there, being exposed to potentially numerous hazards or risks they simply do not see as a risk.


If an operative sees the same hazards day in day out they become part of the landscape and disappear. It’s important to avoid complacency, which sets in when completing a repetitive task. The reticular activating system, or RAS, is a piece of the brain that starts close to the top of the spinal column and extends upwards around two inches. While it may be a small part of the brain, the RAS has a very important role: it is the gatekeeper of information that is let into the conscious mind. For example, a ticking clock is loud, and it is all you hear when one is nearby. However, after a while you no longer hear it. The clock hasn’t become quiet suddenly, your brain has just moved it to the subconscious.


According to the Cambridge dictionary, perception is someone’s ​ability to ​notice and ​understand things that are not ​obvious to other ​people.

In 2016 Mount Anvil introduced Hazception into its health & safety management system. Hazception is a web-based tool that allows the company to upload videos of the sites it is working on, mark the hazards in the editing suite and then test operatives on real hazards, in real life environments they recognise. The software then details what that operative didn’t see. Mount Anvil then uses that information to train that operative on specifically those points.

textingOver the past 30 years there has been unprecedented change in the workplace. The most significant of these has been in technology. With the widespread use of digital technology, we are constantly being bombarded with information. Our ability to receive phone calls, text messages and e-mails is no longer confined to a certain time and place.

So, when given generic training plans and courses where the majority is what the operative already knows they disengage and potentially miss the time they needed to be educated on. By customising the training plans for each individual, based on what they don’t see, ensures it is pertinent and no additional time is wasted. By being interactive it taps into the game, app generation we now are as a society, and people can relate far more.

Mount Anvil used Hazception to define the competency for everyone for site inductions. Before any operative was allowed on to the shop floor, they were required to demonstrate they were hazard aware of the environment they were going to be working in, this was repeated every eight weeks to ensure the RAS was not a factor in their hazard perception. The company also used the software for safe system of work assessment, each stage of electrical isolation and mechanical commissioning, for example, were filmed and operatives tested to ensure they followed the steps in order and at each stage.

Since the implementation of Hazception, the number of hazards logged and actioned each month has continued to rise to an average of 1,506 logged and actioned every month. The RIDDOR rate is zero and the number of all other incidents, first aid, lost time etc. has fallen by 24% from Q1 2016 to Q4 2017.

As a result, operatives are engaged with hazard reporting; the incalculable benefit has been to the culture and morale of the project. Operatives are far more engaged with safety, they respect the programme for what it is being used for and actively going out of their way to inform management on hazards they missed in their Hazception exam but found and actioned out on site.

Ricky Webb, Director Hadley Scaffolding, said: “Hazception has been of enormous benefit to our teams, it’s allowed us to see what our guys are missing out on site and target those areas, making us far more efficient and successful at managing safety”

Kieran Duggan, Director O’Halloran & O’Brien, added: “We used Hazception on the Keybridge site and it helped us enormously in our competency assessment. We have since taken the product on within our own business to define the training for all our black hat supervisors.”

Approaches to managing the risks associated Musculoskeletal disorders

In this episode of the Safety & Health Podcast, we hear from Matt Birtles, Principal Ergonomics Consultant at HSE’s Science and Research Centre, about the different approaches to managing the risks associated with Musculoskeletal disorders.

Matt, an ergonomics and human factors expert, shares his thoughts on why MSDs are important, the various prevalent rates across the UK, what you can do within your own organisation and the Risk Management process surrounding MSD’s.

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