Health & Safety Week 2015

Health & Safety Week 2015


For a decade, Xmo Strata has closed down all company operations for a day – with the active assistance of customers – and brought crews to a hotel in the South of England for a day of presentations, projects and exercises about health and safety.

Well, this year it was different!

The venue and catering wasn’t as posh – but the budget was significantly increased, and the event had a very different style!

Not only that, but Safety Day became Safety Week!

For senior managers it was a full-on week, but crews, subcontractors and customer-side VIP visitors still attended for a day.

“Spreading the events out over the week increased our costs, and the time commitment for senior managers, but made it easier for VIP customers, who could choose which day to attend,” said Director Kate Parmentier.  “It also meant we didn’t have to close-down the company’s entire operations for a whole day.”

“In a corporate sense it was a much bigger commitment, and the costs were much higher, but we’re hoping it was a more effective event.  We had smaller groups, which allowed us to encourage greater levels of engagement – people could contribute without feeling they were doing so in front of a big ‘audience”.

“I think it was Xmo Strata moving on, developing a concept and taking it to the next stage.”


Xmo Strata tries to use smart planning, systems and common sense to reduce the amount of miles travelled by crews – but inevitably, given the nature of the company’s business, high mileages are a part of the job for many people.

And however clever your planning, the unexpected will always throw a spanner in the works.  Meaning that sometimes, frustratingly, crews may have to double-back to locations they’ve only recently visited or make journeys that on the face of it, and not being in possession of all the facts, may seem to be inefficient.   The company is pretty smart at avoiding such situations but sometimes they are going to happen.


Fact pack 

Department of Transport statistics for 2013:

  • 1,713 people were killed in road accidents.
  • 21,657 people were seriously
  • 183,670 people suffered some injury in accidents reported to the police.


In 2014 the company drove a total of 300,000 miles per year, with around 4,300 site visits on 2,500 jobs.  Travel is a major hidden cost.  It’s not just vehicle lease costs, fuel, and insurance, but the fact that whilst a crew is travelling to a location it isn’t always doing billable work.  So it’s in the company’s interests to minimise crew travel.

But far more important than that is the whole issue of safety.   To give one example, we all know it’s a fact of life that weather damage to signs is more likely to occur in winter – which means crews travelling to sites may have to combat rain, sleet, snow, ice, high winds and other hazards.  Occasionally, all of those in a single journey.

We use video and infographics a lot to get across safety issues – but it’s difficult to illustrate driving related hazards in a video, because you’d have to spend a lot of money having video crews on call to film our own crews attending sites in bad conditions.

So we did it another way – and gave everyone the chance to experience a ‘skid pan’, under the careful supervision of highly-trained skid-pan experts.

It allowed everyone to gain first-hand knowledge of precisely what happens when you push a vehicle too far in the wrong conditions.

Participants received tuition on braking hard and steering around hazards; the instructors explained how traction control works when swerving in emergencies, and gave everyone first-hand experience of front and rear wheel skids, and how to avoid them, or deal with them if they happened.


Most of those present – even those who’d done similar things before – found it useful to take a vehicle beyond its limits in a safe and controlled environment.

It was fun (which is important) … but it also carried a valuable lesson for all those who took part!

Just to add a little bit of excitement we held a time trial at the end of the day – and to win, you had to complete the course quickly but without losing time and points by hitting bollards.  That meant retaining control of the vehicle throughout!

Behavioural safety

One of the key sessions at North Weald was on behavioural safety.  It’s a topic which has been covered before on safety days but the unpredictable nature of human behaviour continues to cause challenges in the workplace and on sites.


Fact pack 

  • The company has made 400+ updates to its health and safety manual …
  • … and sent people on over 1,600 training courses.


The session covered some things which might be dismissed as obvious, but which can all contribute to an understanding of health and safety – such as whether or not safety is a simple or complex thing (discuss!)

The group debated all the key issues which may contribute to safety failings (such as, for example, an unsafe site, people, procedures, choices about equipment and plant, training, knowledge etc).   There were discussions on barriers to safety, risk awareness … and both observation skills and ability to analyse a situation to identify potential risks may not be immediately obvious.


Fact pack 

In 2014:

  • 257 corrective actions raised by employees were actioned.
  • 340 safety observations were made.
  • 143 of these were made safe at no additional cost to the customer.


There were discussions about the LMRALast Minute Risk Assessment - The continual review and assessment of risks throughout the task. checklist and the accident triangle – and the consequences of safety failure (such as – an increasing phenomenon – falling signs injuring passers-by, perhaps months or years after they were originally erected).

There were also discussions about interventions, when crews spot other people working unsafely.


Fact pack 

The company has experienced 2052 safety incidents since 2004

324 (16%) of these incidents were identified (remotely) as appropriate for a positive intervention

294 positive interventions have actually been made since 2004.

Managers who have analysed the statistics believe that 30 more (2%) had potential for an intervention that was not actually made.

Making it Simpler!

Operations Manager Peter Barker led sessions on the whole question of making safety simpler.  There was extensive discussion about the multiple sets of differing (and sometimes contradictory) safety rules which customers apply and which the company needs to adhere to – and the company’s own rules, which are often more stringent than those of customers.

Much of the perceived complexity surrounding safety is about site documentation and Peter spent some time on how to deal with this correctly.

“If you just run through mentally all the things that crews have to consider, there’s a lot,” he said.   “You can’t possibly remember it all, so it’s very much about understanding the systems.  That can get challenging when you are working for different customers with different systems – but it’s our job to get it right.”

Peter’s presentation covered PPEPersonal Protective Equipment., plant and equipment, special situations relating to sub-contractors, hazards and risks, wind speed, fencing off, working in confined spaces, dealing with tall equipment and low hanging cables, phone masts, LOTOLock Out Tag Out - Isolation of Energy Sources., electrical work and cables, vehicles and driving, working at height and the use of step ladders, interventions, near misses, signing for goods, LMRALast Minute Risk Assessment - The continual review and assessment of risks throughout the task., clearance certificates – and much more.

“Simple is always best and when you’re dealing with a lot of systems and procedures, you need to understand it all rather than just slavishly follow a tick-box approach.  That’s what we were trying to help people get to grips with in the sessions.”