Safer building sites
Joe O’Dwyer, Health & Safety Manager, Collen.

Collen Construction’s innovative safety programmes encourage full worker engagement and the taking of greater personal responsibility. JOE O’DWYER, Health & Safety Manager, Collen, outlines how the contractor’s new “Creating Safer Sites” programme fits with furthering its worker safety philosophy.

Collen is an eighth-generation, family-owned business founded in 1810 that delivers complex projects in Ireland and Europe. We currently employ 370 people who are our greatest assets. In line with our ongoing growth plans for this team, we constantly work to enhance our robust safety ethos.

On 17 September 2021, Collen launched our “Creating Safer Sites” programme at Croke Park. This event brought together Collen’s senior leadership teams from Ireland, Sweden and Germany, who were deeply engaged in thought-provoking and, at times, confronting conversations on what it will take to create the step change in safety and wellbeing that Collen is committed to and furthering the core objective of the new “Collen Way”, that people go home every day feeling in better shape for having worked at Collen.

Creating safer sites

Collen operates a robust occupational health and safety management system (OHSMS), which was certified to ISO 45001 in April 2018. The company has been accredited with an “A” rating from Safe-T-Cert for the past nine consecutive years. An OHSMS translates the organisation’s intentions to prevent incidents in a systematic and ongoing set of processes that reinforces a commitment to proactively improving occupational health and safety (OHS) performance. Collen is committed to constantly strive for safety innovation and improvement. This led us to develop the Creating Safer Sites programme, a culture change programme designed to create a step-change in safety and wellbeing that is sustainable over time.

Where Collen wants to be

The core objective of Creating Safer Sites is to establish an environment where all people on sites go home safe every day and feel in better shape for having worked at Collen. To achieve this objective, Collen is creating a mindset for safety that is positive and proactive, ensures that there is no gap in our safety performance, embeds our safety values and ensures that they are visibly lived across the organisation. Collen also wants to develop a culture where all management and the workforce are committed to the same safety vision of everyone going home safely every day.

How creating safer sites will work

Over the next 12 months, the Creating Safer Sites programme will engage Collen worker, subcontractor and supply chain site teams in a transformational process through a series of engagement and skills workshops for all levels of leadership. Collen will provide on-site support to embed new practices, individual leadership development of senior leaders, and create a body of internal field coaches to ensure the sustainability of the intended changes.

There are three critical elements of the transformational process:

– Transform thinking – Transform the way people think about safety

– Transform leaders – Support teams and individuals in creating and sustaining a positive safety culture and mindset

– Transform capabilities – Develop the skills and abilities necessary to support and spread new actions.

These changes will be achieved by developing leadership teams, conducting safety culture reviews, one-to-one coaching of key safety leaders and adopting a top-down/bottom-up implementation of engagement style and skill-building workshops. Partnering with our supply chain and having them committed to Creating Safer Sites is critical to the effectiveness and success of the programme.

How do we get there?

Collen intends to focus on our safety culture, which means a focus on our people. We will explore how our people think and act for safety – their attitude and their behaviour, focus on engagement and communication, and build a belief that our people can work every day without an injury, develop the key skills, capabilities, and practices to create safer building sites and sustain the culture we want.

Safer building sites
Collen's Creating Safer Sites event in Croke Park included online engagement with Collen teams across Europe.
Safer building sites
Attending the Creating Safer Sites event in Croke Park, (L to r): Rebecca Reilly, Derek McCaffery, Willie Loughnane, David Lee and Liam Flynn.
Safety leadership development

An integral part of doing things the New Collen Way includes safety leadership development.

Key components include:

– Accept at a senior level that they should be pushing the safety culture on site and not be relying on higher-level inputs

– Have mentoring of younger, less experienced members of teams within Collen by the more experienced members of their teams

– Instill a belief that it is possible and move from a “have-to” to a “want-to” mentality.

– A stage-gate approach to check in on how our teams are doing and ensure that they remain on course with our ultimate objectives

– Strive to achieve no incidents, no accidents, no long-term illness (LTI’s), no reportables and no first-aids throughout the complete life cycle of a project, irrespective of size, having the same outcome and lending to a better working environment for all personnel concerned

– Achieve the statement that everyone went home unhurt from the working day for the complete project lifecycle.

– People step up/create leaders at all levels

– Be mindful of the statement “Our relationship to safety is the greatest motivator for compliance”

– Have a culture of accountability rather than blame.

Intended outcomes

Collen’s intended outcomes include:

– Achieve safer sites, improve morale, health, and wellbeing

– Workforces accept the systems, personally understand the need for rules and are willing to follow them

– Establish a sustainable environment where people at all levels look out for each other’s safety and hold each other accountable

– Have a consistent safety approach across the company and our subcontractors

– Engage with crews and site leaders so that people take pride, feel valued, feel safe to speak up knowing that their contribution counts, they feel part of the process and that their ideas mean something.

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