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April 29, 2024

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Heathrow Airport’s Roly Latif – “Shift focus to more things going right”

For this year’s EHS Congress taking place between 22-24 May, we speak to Roly Latif, Head of Health and Safety for Infrastructure at Heathrow Airport ahead of his talk at the event.

Hi Roly, looking forward to your talk – could you tell us about the safety culture at Heathrow Airport, what in particular is different for aviation?

Roly Latif

I often struggle to explain why the safety culture within Infrastructure is as good as it is; it’s developed through continuous improvement and Heathrow’s leadership not accepting what the data was telling us when we were building T5 over 20 years ago.

We decided then to look at safety differently and shift focus to more things going right than a fewer things going wrong – we wanted to become a learning organisation and embed a ‘Just Culture’ i.e. to promote continuous learning from previous mistakes and to encourage everyone to openly and freely share essential safety related information. This culture had been embedded in aviation for some time, so it seemed natural for construction to use it.

How can organisations strive for safety culture excellence?

Visible leadership is important. Engaging with the workforce breaks down barriers, builds trust and gives everyone a sense of self-worth. It also gives us an opportunity to listen to operatives ideas on how to improve safety – going to where the information is gives us an opportunity to improve.

Heathrow arrivalsFrom a clients perspective, I think it starts with procurement; setting clear safety expectations from those they’re working with and then facing into the hard work and patience it takes to embed organisations into your safety culture.

It takes trust, honesty and collaboration – there’s no Intellectual Property when it comes to safety learning.

Why is safety so important to be part of design?

The design stage is the most effective and efficient time to eliminate harm. If the risk is carried through to construction  for example, then it has to be managed, which increases the risk of harm because the focus has shifted on delivering the asset.

For those that have to use, maintain or operate the asset, it’s important that there’s no unnecessary residual risks that may affect their safety or health. But – designers must have access to any safety learning from incidents post-handover. This is simple PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) in my view.

How far does safety culture and wellbeing cross over?

They are entwined. In construction, we have a large transient workforce that spend long spells away from their homes. We realised that providing our workforce with excellent welfare – food, changing facilities etc. – increased our connection with the workforce and therefore mutual trust.

That trust contributed to worker wellbeing and in turn our safety culture.

Construction workers have an above average rate of suicide and the fasting ageing workforce of any industry, so we have to protect them as much as we can.

What are you most looking forward to at EHS Congress this year?


To find out more about EHS Congress 2024, click here. 

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