July 21, 2021

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‘COVID-19 has given the health & safety profession a seat at the table’

SHP speaks to Lucilla Cummings, Travis Perkins PLC’s HSE Improvement Specialist, who was named SHP’s Rising Star UK, back in December.

Lucilla Cummings completed an undergraduate degree at Salford University in environmental management, before going on to do a master’s degree, in environmental management and assessment. It was whilst undertaking the health and safety modules within those courses, she realised they were the aspects that resonated with her the most and that she most enjoyed. Pursuing her interest, Lucilla took on extra activities and explored what transferrable skills she had for health and safety roles.

After university, Lucilla applied for a graduate scheme with Travis Perkins. She said it was the ‘freedom for continual improvement’ that attracted her to the profession. “It’s quite diverse in terms of the industries and is at the heart of everything, not just in work but outside of work too. That’s what brought me into it.”

Lucilla’s role, HSE Improvement Specialist, is a fairly new one. “When I’m networking, people they ask, ‘what does an improvement specialist do?’ I say that we’re in a really good space, in that we’re able to identify proactively areas of improvement and work with colleagues and senior leaders to fill the holes.

“It’s an interesting role, because we’re able to work with other industry leading companies and create a pavement in terms of being industry leading ourselves.”

Scroll to the bottom of this page, to listen to this interview in full.

Rising Star

Lucilla Cummings AwardIt was Lucilla’s ‘rapid progression’ through the business, taking learnings from her previous roles, that made her stand out to SHP Awards judges in December. Lucilla built and introduced a new Safety Management System at Toolstation, one of Britain’s fastest growing suppliers to the trade with over 483 branches across the UK. She has achieved a significant amount in her time in Toolstation, including a 10% improvement in Accident Frequency Rate YOY and a 54% improvement in Severity Rate.

That work, in part, saw her named SHP Rising Star UK for 2020. She said that she’d not been made aware that she’d been shortlisted, so admitted to being ‘excited’ when she was told she had won, but also that she felt a little bit of ‘Imposter Syndrome’.

“I was on a Google Hangout on camera at the time I was told. One of the team members messaged my manager to ask them to put me on screen, so that they could announce I had won. Then, people in the team gave their testimonies and experiences of working with me, so it was really exciting and rewarding to win.”

COVID issues

Something else that stood out to the panel, was the work Lucilla has been doing to ensure the safety of her sales team, working with them to highlight the dangers of visiting customer sites, particularly during COVID-19.

“Initially the work started with the sales team. When I joined in 2017, it was highlighted that we focused a lot of our health and safety on the branch activities and the DC activities, but not so much on the external sales team. I started with the safety basics, pulling the key risks and hazards from the day-to-day life, from when they get in the car to when they visit a customer or an in-branch site.

“We focused on dynamic risk assessment, getting the safety basics right, not confusing the risk with the hazard. A key piece of bringing something like that to them, when they’ve never experienced face-to-face training, is making sure that it’s memorable.

“I think COVID-19 has given the health and safety profession a seat at the table, if we didn’t have it before. I think it’s also shown how we can work together, so it doesn’t have to be separate, in terms of safety and operations teams working separately, it’s more a case of us working together to achieve that same objective. So, I definitely think it’s helped safety come to the forefront and I think it will continue to do so.

“Often, we had to translate the guidance that was given by the government to make it easier to understand, for us to work to.”


In ‘normal’ times, Travis Perkins has thousands of deliveries that go out a day. In order to tackle some of the key issues and risks colleagues face, day-to-day, Lucilla and her team work closely with their training partner to ‘decode’ guidance, providing videos and pictures that relate directly to products, to make them easy to decipher and understand.

“We run ‘stand-downs’, which is where we shut the business and focus on specific issue, to give colleagues a better understanding. From those sessions, we’ve created an FAQ document. Every time someone asks something, it’s likely that there are many others thinking the same, so we document it and make that information available to everyone.”

Looking forward

“I think the perception of safety has changed off the back of the pandemic. It’s put safety in a positive light, in terms of the value of safety and making sure that our systems and processes are understood. I think it’s also given us an opportunity to hold the mirror up in the way in which we deliver messages. I think back to some of the messaging from the government around coronavirus and how sometimes it wasn’t clear. It made me realise that perhaps some of the messaging around safety that we try and get across to our teams isn’t always clear. So that’s certainly something to work on and think about.”

Click here to read more about Lucilla’s success and some comments from her colleagues.

Safety & Health Podcast

Hear SHP’s interview with Lucilla, in full, and listen to some of her interesting and innovative safety ideas and how she implemented them in her business.

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