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June 1, 2015

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Joining London’s safety dots

Over the past year, the health and safety directors from the leading safety critical industries in London have met every quarter to discuss common challenges. SHP talks to group chair Karl Simons and several members about this innovative approach to collaboration.  

As Karl Simons, chair of the health and safety directors, puts it, health and safety professionals are envied among many of their peer professions because there are no barriers when it comes to sharing and disseminating good practice.

Simons, who is head of health, safety and wellbeing at Thames Water, chairs this unique group, which draws together the most senior health and safety professionals from such diverse organisations as Transport for London, Crossrail, National Grid, Network Rail, Battersea, HS2, UK Power Networks, Skanska, Costain and Ferovial, to name but a few.

Having worked across most of the industries represented around the table, Simons knows all too well how the practical application of risk management crosses the boundaries of industries. Many of the challenges faced are common to everyone present.

“What’s been of particular interest to me is the connection we face when emergency events occur,” he says.

“We all have them in some guise due to the scale of our organisations. For example, at Thames Water should we have a water main burst, which as I’m sure you will have seen historically on the news can at times lead to major flooding, the immediate connection to the other members of the group who may be affected due to having assets in the area can make the emergency support and mitigation steps we need to take a lot better managed.”

Pages from 049_SHP0615So what does this unique gathering of safety professionals discuss when they get together each quarter? As Simons explains, many sit on different strategic forums across their own industry sectors. This enables them to feedback to the group, what’s current both operationally and strategically.

“Obviously we are all longstanding members and ambassadors of IOSH, who also has a representative at every meeting. We have IOSH developments as a standing item on the agenda to ensure we continually support the professional body,” he continues.

“Also, the Health and Safety Executive has senior level representation at the group through Philip White, who supports through providing updates on the latest thinking from the regulator.”

As the group shares many similar issues, there is a wealth of tangible outputs that can be taken away from each meeting. Simons cites the occupational health leads from each representative organisation, which have been connected via its own forum.

The health and safety directors have set the occupational health leads a challenge to create a collective ‘London Health and Wellbeing Week’ this October.

“I have been meeting with the occupational health leads every month since January and they are working very closely together to develop what I believe will be a huge collective health and wellbeing week that will influence hundreds of thousands of employees and supply chain members working across the capital in our organisations,” he says.

“It is pretty exciting stuff presently, so watch this space for more information soon. Some of the development initiatives include a ‘Halt for Health Stand-down’ across the capital, an executive exercise that involves all our executives, personal medical assessments, promotional literature, a launch event and many more creative ways to engage everyone.”

Simons points out that the group has a wealth of initiatives in the pipeline. As health and safety professionals leading the major organisations across London, he says that the group recognises that the good practice that is shared could be disseminated to the wider profession working around the UK.

“We are under no illusion of the important role we play and how it influences the expectations of standards and behaviour of those working for and on behalf of our companies and ultimately the role we play in influencing the future regulations that follow industry best practice,” he concludes.

“It would be great to see other capital cities bring together leading professionals from the major client organisations who support it.”

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