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May 19, 2016

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ICE H&S Conference 2016 round-up

Rhaynukaa Soni looks back at the highlights of the recent Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) Health and Safety Conference: Culture, Leadership, Ownership.

On Friday 13 May 2016, the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) hosted their third Health and Safety Conference. Despite what some believe to be an ominous date, the event was attended by good cross section of the industries and professionals at all levels of their career.  The day was packed with speakers that gave great insight into what they were doing as well as starting some interesting debates.

Bob Arnold was the Keynote Speaker and he did not disappoint. From looking at safety culture “Values. Behaviors. Knowledge. Systems.” – Bob Arnold’s definition, to why we need psychologists in the UK through to ISO 45001 and International Law.  Arnold also gave an excellent summary of Health and Safety Legislation in the UK, UAE and Canada – showing which was prescription vs. employer responsibility based.  It was fascinating to look at how other societies regard health and safety and which Nations have progressed at a faster pace to help ensure the safety of all their works.

An interesting exercise that Arnold mentioned that Brookfield have been carrying out, is internally investigating a near-miss incident as though it was a fatality. Whilst no one ever wants a fatality, this strikes me as an excellent way to test the organisational systems, amend where required and gain some valuable lessons learnt – safe in the knowledge, this time at least, it was a near-miss.

The Panel Discussion looked to debate: “Self-regulation: Has the time come?” and Dame Carol Black did an excellent job of chairing what was certainly a well-rounded debate. It was clear that opinions around the room were split with each side citing some strong arguments for their case.  Black made a valid observation when she concluded the session by saying “A healthy worker is a safe worker.”

However, for me the comment that stood out was from John Green who, quite accurately in my opinion stated “Many of our safety management systems manage liability they do nothing for the frontline operatives.” It highlights not only the need to focus on the real impact strategic decisions have on those that on whom it has the most bearing, it also acknowledges the need for the industry to change.

Philip Baker in his session “Driving Change – preventing occupational ill health through design” made a startling observation “we invalid the same number of people as we take on apprentices, how can we then expect to grow the industry?”

The concept of designing out risk is not new, what is relatively new is how seriously some projects are taking this. For example, as Steve Fink discussed HS2 is not only looking at the design of the build, it is also taking into consideration the operation and maintenance of the route.

Fink’s session discussed: “The Efficient Principal Designer.” I had to agree with the conclusion that very little precedence has been set for the PD role yet, though this is not necessarily a bad thing.  What is clear is the role of the PD is “critical to overall system integration.”  Delegates were interested in learning that HS2 is taking on the role of both Client and PD, with the solid reasoning that if contractors or design houses were given this role there would not be a singular consistency throughout the entire route.

The day continued with many other insightful discussions including Ian Prosser “Addressing health and safety risks effectively – bridging the gap between management and operations” and Alistair Gibb and Peter Crosland looking at “Getting the message out to the whole supply chain: H&S matters.”

Alex Lubbock had the most challenging slot – straight after lunch, on a Friday afternoon. His presentation “Understanding the value of BIM in Health Safety” was hugely insightful and really does raise the question of why isn’t BIM being used more in our industry.

The presentation that stood out for me was from Martin Coyd who looked at “Mental Health: Addressing the issue before it grows.” Undoubtedly this was a sobering session and not a subject that one would usual discuss on a sunny Friday afternoon let alone at a conference.  Regardless, it was insight and I felt made you sit up and think.  We acknowledge that the industry is predominately male and this, broadly speaking, most men will not actively acknowledge stress.  We normally hear “man up” or “real men don’t get stressed” yet stress is real issue that affects so many in our industry.  Which is why Coyd’s question is even more poignant “How much to we spend on fall prevention and how much do spend on suicide prevention?”

If you weren’t able to attend the Conference I would strongly recommend you keep an eye out for when the ICE releases videos of the talks. Equally, I thoroughly recommend you make every attempt to attend in 2017.

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