HS2 vows to leave health and safety legacy
Emma Head, HS2 Ltd.
The new high-speed rail network, known as High Speed 2 (HS2), plans to connect the cities of London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, becoming the UK’s largest infrastructure project. The process of constructing this new network has naturally raised health and safety concerns within communities across the country, however HS2 has said they are committed to setting a new standard within occupational health.
Emma Head, Corporate Health and Safety Director for High Speed 2, spoke to Hannah Brewer, UBM about the role that health and safety will play within the building of this new rail network.
This article was originally published in May 2016.
“It’s important to remember that HS2 is an organisation, not just a programme,” begins Emma.
“As well as constructing the railway, we will procure the rolling stock and will take the railway into operation and maintenance. Therefore, it is important we focus on building the company to be ready for these challenges.”
Emma explains how working in a new organisation like HS2 offers exciting the opportunities to define the values, cultures and behaviours of the team – an opportunity that might not be so readily available in established organisations.
A strategic goal has been set to deliver the railway to the highest health and safety standards, as well as proactively managing risk and setting new standards in occupational health.
“Our focus over the last 12 months has been to define what this means in reality for HS2 Ltd and for our contractors, through identifying our clear, measurable health and safety commitments so we can articulate the legacy we will leave for health and safety,” says Emma.
Despite the thorough planning of implementing these safety procedures, the risks still remain high within large construction projects: ten fatalities occurred through the development and construction of the Channel tunnel between 1987 and 1998. Although more recently the 2012 Olympic games completed development and build without a single fatality.
HS2 has vowed to deliver a consistent safety experience, explains Emma.
“We recently shortlisted companies for over £11bn of major works civil engineering contracts, covering things like heavy earth moving, bridges and tunnels. This is the largest procurement of its type the UK has ever seen, and it’s essential that health and safety is built into the contract if we are to maximise our impact”
A consistent safety culture across the programme is essential, argues Emma.
“It is important everyone is working to put safety at the heart of everything we do and to ensure that our neighbours along the route experience the same high standards of safety, as we work in and move vehicles through their communities.
“To achieve this, HS2 has committed to a HS2 wide induction programme and H&S Passport Scheme, and there will be an enhanced Safety Leadership Induction for all frontline leaders within the supply chain. This will enable us to provide a “HS2 Injection” and deliver a consistent safety experience.” Emma says.
Explaining the passport scheme, Emma says it will enable HS2 to share health and safety data across the programme and the supply chain.
This includes data like working hours, health exposures, competence and fitness to work. Emma says she hopes the platform will be a collaborative project with other major infrastructure managers, like Network Rail and Transport for London.
This would enable them to share safety critical data and eradicate long-standing industry issues like ‘double-shifting’ – working two shifts in a row.
Great Britain has a health and safety record envied by many, but through technological and social changes in our working environment, HSE has released its Helping Great Britain work well strategy in order to renew the focus on occupational health. HS2 has recognised this as a vital part of their work.
“HS2 Ltd is very supportive of the strategy and recognise that we, as a government owned, major client organisation, have our role to play in helping Britain work well. We can set new and better standards for health and safety, and ultimately up-skill a large and diverse workforce to deliver these standards, leaving a legacy in the supply chain beyond the duration of the construction programme” says Emma.
“At HS2, we have committed to ‘view health like safety’ – both in terms of visibility, but also in terms of focusing on health by design – changing mind sets and the visibility of health risks at the design stage so we can make better decisions now in the selection of materials, plant and working methods, to improve health in construction, operation and maintenance.”
See Emma Head speak at this year’s Safety and Health Expo, where she will be taking part in the re-branding health and safety panel discussion on the 22 June. The event will be held at London ExCeL from the 21 – 23 June 2016. Register for free today.
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