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October 14, 2015

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Crossrail: making health and safety inclusive

It is well-documented that diverse teams are more productive, more efficient and more profitable. At Crossrail we believe that diverse teams are also safer. So we are using a pioneering approach to test this by targeting established diversity and inclusion approaches into health and safety practice to further reinforce the concepts of Target Zero.

By Pamela McInroy

Women in Health and Safety visit the Crossrail tunnel at Farringdon Station

The premise is the belief that it is impossible to achieve our aspiration of Target Zero unless we create an interdependent culture on our construction sites where we have the majority of our high risk activities. Diversity and inclusion must extend beyond office environments and reach the very people that really make a difference to the day-to-day safe operation of a project.

By ‘interdependent culture’, we mean a culture where everyone watches out for each other and where health and safety is of concern to our workmates regardless of nationality, language, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.  This is an important concept in a diverse construction project with a high population of migrant workers, speaking over 70 languages from a variety of cultures.

As the new Diversity and Inclusion Specialist at Crossrail, I am developing and implementing a strategy to identify the potential barriers to health and safety that are created by a lack of diverse and inclusive attitudes and behaviours within construction. Studies have shown that UK construction sites continue to have highly-tolerated levels of sexism, racism and other discriminatory behaviours.

This research, which comes from the Open University of London, attributes this behaviour to the high level of transient workers, who are liable to feel less responsible for their co-workers due to the potentially short time they will be working together. We believe that such behaviour introduces additional hazards to the workplace, which is why we place an emphasis on a respectful, interdependent culture.

The best way to implement diversity and inclusion across a project as vast and as ever-changing as Crossrail is to embed it into the existing Crossrail health and safety strategy; a strong and widely implemented plan reaching all parts of the project. Key focuses for the Crossrail health and safety team are:

  • improvements;
  • assurance;
  • workplace health and wellbeing;
  • site safety;
  • and now, diversity and inclusion.

The diversity strategy will initially present two pieces of research which are being carried out by Middlesex University; both will be focused on members of staff who work on Crossrail construction sites:

  1. Recently commenced and focused on how well our health and safety communications have been understood by non-English speakers who receive them – to ask the question: “Is language a barrier to people understanding health and safety?”
  2. To compare and contrast the health and safety of our diverse workforce, and how minorities feel about their health and safety on site.

In addition to the research, we have begun to integrate diversity and inclusivity into a number of our training programmes.

Crossrail’s Frontline Leadership Programme, delivered to site supervisors at the Tunnelling & Underground Construction Academy in Ilford, discusses scenarios of diverse teams and how best to keep them healthy and safe. The training focuses on the diversity of language and gender, and then moves into a discussion on how diversity can impact on health and safety. Importantly it considers the importance of supervisors demonstrating the values of respect and inclusion.

Diversity and inclusion elements have also been implemented in other components of our health and safety strategy where it will directly reach site level – site based surveys, audits, safety campaigns and communications.

At Crossrail our ultimate goal is, “to deliver a world-class railway that fast-tracks the progress of London”. It has been agreed that to be truly considered “world-class” we need to be progressive and innovative in our approach to health and safety. This will enable us to ‘fast-track’ the construction industry to enable it to be the safest industry.

We are therefore asking the difficult questions like:

  • “Are non-English speakers at a higher risk of injury”?
  • “Do men and women experience the same health and safety hazards”?
  • “Do LGBT feel the ability to be visible on site”?
  • “Do people feel confident to reveal their disabilities”?
  • “Could the diversity of people on a construction site play a factor into ones’ health and safety”?

At Crossrail, we are totally committed to the idea that an inclusive culture is pioneering, will keep us “world-class” in the industry and most importantly, ultimately help us to achieve Target Zero leaving a legacy for future projects.

Pamela McInroyPamela McInroy is diversity and inclusion specialist at Crossrail. After completing her degree in Women’s Studies, Pamela worked on international projects in Canada, Brazil, South Africa and most recently a three year work placement focusing on the challenges of diversity in the work place in Seoul, South Korea. After returning to the UK three years ago, Pamela started working in the health and safety team for Crossrail for three years, and for 9 months as the Diversity & Inclusion Specialist. Along with being committed to the Target Zero programme, one which works to eliminate all work place accidents and issues to workplace health, she is dedicated to humanitarian, social and political issues.

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Andy Croft
Andy Croft
8 years ago

It is good to see that diversity and inclusion is now being taken seriously at Crossrail and I take it as a good example, I am however quite concerned that they do not appear to allow anyone with a disability on any of their sites, or that’s the message I get from the article. The Equalities Act 2010 does include disability and I have no doubt that they already employ many people with disabilities not the least because certain disabilities actually improve the efficiency of the staff doing compatible jobs over non-disabled. Some disabilities affect the way that people take… Read more »

8 years ago

Having worked on Crossrail for two years I can honestly say that focusing on a fair and just culture where messengers are not shot would do more to improve the safety culture than I have read in the article – good though it is.

8 years ago

“Are non-English speakers at a higher risk of injury”? This is an interesting question and could easily be extended to include those who speak English as a second language. It’s an ongoing challenge for the industry to ensure that all workers understand what safety measures are in place and how to do their job safely for the benefit of the individual, colleagues and members of the public. Even when the client and main contractor seem to be on the ball, problems can still arise with control of the supply chain, so it’s essential that training and best practice is shared… Read more »

Christina Riley
Christina Riley
8 years ago

Great to see Crossrail making Diversity a priority. LGBT Networks can make a huge contribution to respect in the workplace , retention and recruitment.

Will be good to see this initiative being developed across the industry