Staying safe, keeping well (health and safety)
Our vision is Zero Harm - no one harmed by the work we do
What it's all about
Wherever we work we want to do it safely. We know work-related accidents and illness can have tragic consequences. That’s why our vision for health and safety can only be Zero Harm. We simply cannot accept that any of us, the public or the people we serve - should suffer injury or harm as a result of the way we do our jobs.
In each of our contracts, we commit ourselves to continual improvement in health and safety standards. This means sharing developments, best practices, new approaches, technologies, training and equipment that can help us achieve our goal of Zero Harm.
We all have a part to play by knowing and following the health and safety rules that apply to our job, staying aware and speaking up if we feel unsafe or we’re concerned about the wellbeing of colleagues.
“At Serco we have the power to challenge anything we think may be unsafe. So if we think it’s unsafe, we stop and fix it.”
What we all need to know and do
We make sure we know and follow all the health and safety rules and guidelines that apply to our job. That includes any training that we are required to do.
Safety is all our business. So we never walk by something we think may be unsafe and leave it to someone else. If we see it, it’s our job to report it at once.
When doing any task we always work within any method statement, risk assessment, safety procedure or training requirements that apply to it.
We always wear the correct personal protection equipment required for the task and ask for it to be replaced if it is damaged.
We only operate equipment if we are trained and qualified to do so.
We immediately report defective equipment.
We stop work if we cannot do the task safely, and report why.
We consider risks to mental health and social wellbeing as we consider physical safety risks.
We immediately report any accident, dangerous incident or breach of health and safety procedures to prevent them from happening again.
Asher woke to his alarm. It was 6:30am, an hour later than his wake-up time in the Air Force.
As he showered and dressed, he thought about how leaving the military had changed him. So many little things, like getting up later, going for a drink with friends every Friday night.
But there were things that he couldn’t change. Routine, can-do attitude, get the job done at any cost. Taking responsibility.
As he walked into work, he thought how the civilian world wasn’t that much different and he was happy to use his military skills in this new career.
He was first in to work and had to open the hangar door. Usually there was someone to help and watch out, but Asher just thought he’d get it done. He was a get it done kind of guy.
The door was made up of 3 sections, all operated through a mechanical lever and weighing about 12 tons. They weren’t brilliantly maintained, but Asher was used to them. He reached for the lever and stepped forward. That was his mistake. As the first section moved the door shifted and snapped, trapping Asher’s arm between sections. The pain rushed through him. He screamed, but there was no one else there. And no one else came for the next 25 minutes.
The incident was reviewed and some clear new guidelines were put in place. Mostly though a “Take 5” culture was born, to get people to take 5 seconds to check their way of doing things.
5 seconds to think, Is this really safe? Is it a ‘can-do’ or a ‘don’t-do’?
Asher returned to work 2 weeks later, strapped up and still in some pain. He was lucky, it could have been so much worse. So now he mixes his ‘Can-do’ with ‘Take 5’ for a safer time at work.
Remember - our work is never so urgent that we cannot take time to do it safely
Working in this team was the best feeling. We had such a great time. Whatever they asked us to do, that was okay by us, because we were the team and there was nothing we couldn’t do. It was like we were the cool guys. I’d not had that before, so I loved it. I loved my mates and I loved my work.
I always thought that was the right order of things too - mates before work. Then I started to see little things, growing into big things, that were worrying. Short cuts to get the job done, things that were not done how I was trained to do them. After all there were posters everywhere telling us to think before we act and all that, but the rest of the team didn’t seem to care.
So I started to get stressed and worried that if I said anything I’d lose their friendship. My mate asked me what was up and I said what was on my mind - I thought what we were doing wasn’t safe. He laughed, told me to just shut up and not worry.
It made me feel so uncool. And I thought, ‘Okay, he’s been doing it longer so, yeah, just keep quiet.’
But then I began to see that what was really going on was a kind of macho thing - it was stupid, and really there was going to be a nasty accident unless someone did something.
So feeling like a total traitor, I went to our Manager. She reassured me that I’d done the right thing and she got us all together and did a refresher training session. I thought none of the guys would speak to me, but it’s helped actually. They’ve even asked me to tell them when I think we’re slipping into bad safety habits.
So I’m feeling like I’ve got that responsibility now and it’s ok. But the biggest thing we learned is we have to have each other’s backs. Being a real mate is looking after each other and I know we will now.
We stop work if we cannot do the task safely, and report why.
We had this lifting trolley. It had been playing up for a while. We were always going to get it fixed, but things were so busy, and if a job came in we always liked to say, ‘Of course we can do that!’
So, this urgent job came in - needed doing in the next hour. We were already busy that day, but you don’t like to say no, so we put it front of the list. I can even remember Kai saying, ‘Let’s get this one done fast!’
There was heavy equipment to move so we had to use the trolley. Everything was fine and we just had the final lot to load when - bang! The hydraulics went, and the whole thing went straight down on Kai’s foot. I don’t know what it weighed - 5 tonnes maybe. We got him free, but there was blood everywhere, and you could see the ankle was broken - it was at this horrible angle - made you feel sick to see that.
I went to the hospital with him. When they told him it would take a good three months, he said to me, ‘I feel like I’ve let everyone down.’
But of course it wasn’t just him. It was all of us. That trolley should have been fixed weeks ago, and we should never have used it. But you’re under pressure, you carry on, you want to do a great job, and like they say, you just begin to see things around you - even potential hazards - as “normal”.
We immediately report defective equipment.
I missed seeing my colleagues at the office, but in the end I got used to working from home. Long hours too, as we had to manage people calling from all over the country.
But it was fine - until I got this really bad back. It was agony. I could hardly move and trying to sleep was impossible.
I told my daughter and she asked a friend who was a physiotherapist to see me. He said I’d got a lot of damage and asked to see where I worked.
After a quick look, he told me that the chair I was using was really bad, and I was spending all my time in a really bad posture. He then asked me how many breaks I took. What became really clear was that at home I was not mindful of the things that were just part of the routine in the office.
The physio said this was proving to be a major problem for the health and wellbeing of so many people now working from home.
The message for me was very clear: as well as looking after each other, we need to look after ourselves.
Remember - our work is never so urgent that we cannot take time to do it safely.
Thursday - the day of the fire drill. It was also a day when we were under a lot of stress to complete a project.
So when the fire alarm sounded we all just wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. Everyone evacuated the building with the inevitable grumbles and complaints and we stood around at the assembly points waiting for it to be over so we could get back to work. Nobody thought it was for real, even though the alarm had gone off an hour or so earlier than usual.
Then we heard the ringing of a fire engine approaching - and that’s when we began to realise that the fire was for real.
Fortunately it wasn’t too serious, but the chief fire officer wasn’t impressed at all. He gathered everyone outside the building and really gave us a talking to - quite rightly.
It turned out that no one had taken the alarm seriously, so the proper checks and procedures hadn’t been carried out. He made it very clear that as a result of our carelessness someone could have been stuck inside and died as a result, and the whole building could have gone up because the fire doors hadn’t been closed.
Ever since, we’ve always treated every drill as vital practice for the real thing.
When doing any task we always work within any method statement, risk assessment,
safety procedure or training requirements that apply to it.
Maria and I were taking out the waste as usual. Even though it was hazardous waste, we’d got so used to it that we didn’t really think about it.
Suddenly Maria dropped her bag and looked down at her hand. There was a small bead of blood on her palm.
I checked out the bag, and realised that a needle was sticking out of it. It hadn’t been stored correctly and had been placed in the incorrect bin.
It seemed like a small mistake - someone in a rush not taking enough care. So we didn’t really think much more of it and carried on. But even though Maria just wanted to forget about it, at the end of the day I reported the incident, and Maria went for a check-up.
She tested positive for hepatitis and her life was a nightmare, especially with three young kids. She was off work and got really depressed.
She came back, but she wasn’t the same, and she told me she just couldn’t do the job anymore - she couldn’t trust anything she touched. After a week she left, and we lost touch.
But I keep thinking how much we are all dependant on each other, and someone else’s carelessness can have life changing effects for other employees.
We all have a part to play by knowing and following the health and safety rules
that apply to our job.
Safety is all our business.
Your colleague is lovely. She’s friendly and fun and the day goes by very quickly when you work with her. However, she has a few bad habits and it worries you. She cleans well at the hospital, but never quite finishes anything. She’s busy chatting and little things get missed. Areas she meant to clean but didn’t. Things left behind. Not sanitising properly. What should you do? Or isn’t it your place?
Not your business?
You work in PECS (Prisoner Escort Contract) and you’ve noticed that at certain locations there are different heights of floor when you’re getting prisoners off the transport and on their way to court. Some prisoners and colleagues have fallen over, which has caused a few problems, but no one seems to be doing anything about it. Should you?
Not worth bothering about?
In your place of work there are many safety posters on the walls. They have been there for ages and you’ve stopped looking at them and even thinking about what they are telling you. You worry that your colleagues have stopped noticing them too. What could you do…?
“One of the first things I learnt when I started working for Serco is that safety comes before any deadline.”