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June 7, 2017

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“All accidents are avoidable” – In conversation with RFU’s Chris Powley

Health and Safety Manager for Rugby Football Union (RFU), Chris Powley speaks to SHP about safety and culture and keeping tens of thousands of spectators safe at Twickenham.

What was your route into health and safety?

My route into health and safety happened by chance. I am a qualified bricklayer who went into a maintenance role for a global manufacturing company that produced DVD sleeves back in the days when a DVD recorder cost £500! This role required me to have some fire and first aid knowledge and then various safety requirements. I worked at the company for over twenty years in a variety of roles including as European Health and Safety manager, where my remit was to visit the company’s sites across Europe and, working with the site managers, audit the sites with Chris Powleyrecommendations on how safety can be improved. In 2012 an opportunity arose to apply for a maternity leave cover for the health and safety manager at the RFU. Despite having never worked in the sports or events sector I applied knowing H&S regulations are applicable to all types of work.

What are the important challenges for health and safety leaders to overcome?

Complacency, very often people and organisations become complacent and just do things because they have always done it. It’s important to keep focus on what are people are doing and how they are doing it, ensuring that there is a communication avenue that people can use and be heard. It’s about being diverse and ensuring that you are adaptable to changes.

What are your priorities?

Ensuring that we do not have any reoccurring safety issues. We work hard across the organisation to ensure that people are aware of health and safety practices and any potential safety and health issues. From driving to working on your laptop all present risks that if not adequately controlled can cause injury or illness. I want people to report near misses no matter how insignificant to avoid accidents and give them the means to do this. All accidents are avoidable.

How do you create a culture of safety at Twickenham?

It’s really important to engage all employees and those who are at risk as well as identify and collect data about incidents and accidents to include trends. We have also run a successful health and safety training course for all our directors as it’s important to create a culture of safety at all levels of the business. From the top down, this is how health and safety should be managed in the workplace, safety is everybody’s responsibility. Using our safety committee to identify safety issues and our risk management system to identify high to low risks.

What is your remit at Twickenham and how is this changing?

My remit at the RFU is twofold. I am responsible for the safety of the RFU office staff and visitors during a normal working week (Mon-Fri) and then on an event day (which can range from an England international to an NFL match to a concert). I work with the events team to ensure the safety of up to 82,000 people visiting the stadium, including reviewing and commenting on RAMS sent in and to ensure that customer satisfaction is achieved. We want all members of the public to arrive and go home safely with no injuries due to our negligence.

What is your involvement in security, facilities, mental health?

I have an active role within all these departments, offering training, advice, health checks and just the friendly inspection/audit, working with all those involved to ensure their safety, security is fundamental in health and safety with unsafe practices being identified by the CCTV and the roaming personnel that we have on site, facilities in identifying best practise and contractor control within the stadium and working with HR on the potential stress related illnesses that could occur within the workplace

How do you report and measure success?

At the RFU we use the AwareManger system to capture all incidents showing us the locations and trends in various areas.

What advice do you have for others seeking to follow in  your footsteps?

Patience and understanding. Health and safety rules are not there to stop people working but to ensure that they are working safely and give guidance to the best practice. Being able to listen and not judge those people who have strayed and guide them back to the safety path is also key.

Chris Powley is Health & Safety Manager for the Rugby Football Union (RFU), a position he has held since 2012. He has over twenty five years H&S experience. Prior to the RFU Chris spent twenty years at a global manufacturing company in a variety of roles including European Health and Safety manager.

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Ray Rapp
Ray Rapp
3 years ago

Hmm ‘All accidents are avoidable’ – I don’t think so. I do agree ‘most’ accidents are avoidable.

chris powley
chris powley
3 years ago
Reply to  Ray Rapp

Hi Ray, this is in reference to the accidents that I have investigated at the stadium, the majority of the people have been drinking and do not know their limits. This is totally different from a workplace where drinking is not encouraged.

Ray
Ray
3 years ago
Reply to  chris powley

Hi Chris, in my view accidents are the same regardless of the actual environment or the precursors leading up to the accident/incident. When we have found out how to prevent people tripping over their own feet I will then be convinced that all accidents are avoidable…until then.

Safetylady
Safetylady
3 years ago

Can’t go with the ‘all accidents avoidable’ I’m afraid..
We all have the capacity to fall over fresh air, poke ourselves in the eye, hit our hands or heads against solid objects etc. and that doesn’t even get into the various aches / pains / sprains arena.
Would alcohol intake not be a contributing factor rather than a cause?