… and last for CWC’s Chris Booker. He says the contractor takes a holistic approach to health and safety

Chris Booker
Chris Booker

On many sites, health and safety is treated as almost a necessary evil – something that gets in the way of construction. Nothing could be further from the truth at Canary Wharf, which has an enviable safety record considering the millions of hours spent building the estate.

From the start of construction in 1988, the policy on the wharf has been to provide a safe environment and look after the welfare of the workforce. Chris Booker joined Canary Wharf Contractors two-and-a-half years ago to help make that record even better.

He came from building oil refineries with BP and says: “The petrochemical environment is a much higher risk than normal construction projects. The safety culture is very high due to the proximity of live facilities. The thinking behind my appointment was to bring that culture here to help raise safety standards even higher.”

This culture crosses all disciplines in design and construction, he adds. “A well planned job is a safe job.”

One of Booker’s first acts was to introduce a “permit to commence work” based on one used in the petrochemical industry. He explains: “The permit ties together the contractor’s approved method statements and risk assessments. Anything that requires a method statement or risk assessment needs a permit before work can commence.”

On one side of the single-page permit, contractors give a description of the work to be carried out, its location and possible duration, together with any identifiable risks to personnel and the environment.

On the reverse side is a list of operatives’ names.

Before any work is undertaken, operatives receive a team briefing from their supervisor and then have to sign the permit acknowledging they understand the task and the safety measures to be adopted.

Work can then begin, but the supervisor must also validate the permit every day up to the permissible maximum of 31 days. Anyone joining after work has begun must go through the same process.

We would rather trade contractors came up with the ideas on how to improve safety

“We have tried to make it sensible,” says Booker. “I think the trade contractors appreciate there is a need to change the safety culture within the industry.

“Contractors know the information in their own risk assessments and method statements is being communicated to the workforce, thereby reducing risks and the likelihood of loss.”

CWC has also developed a comprehensive training programme. Everyone within the organisation, from the managing director to administrative staff, receives tailored health and safety training on Institute of Occupational Health and Safety-approved courses. The programme is also open to trade contractors.

The philosophy that prevention is better than cure extends to CWC’s site nurses, who are also trained as safety officers.

To further raise safety awareness, each site has a signboard placed in full view of passers-by indicating whether any notifiable accidents have occurred.

“There’s a little bit of psychology behind that,” says Booker. “It gives everyone a lift if there have been no accidents on their site and makes them feel accountable. We’ve very keen to reward good performance.”

To this end, a monthly prize is awarded to the contractor with the best health and safety record. At the end of the project, the best contractor in each discipline is given £1000 to donate to charity.

Other regular events are the safety forums between CWC and its trade contractors where both large and small players can suggest initiatives that will improve health and safety performance. Booker says: “We would rather they came up with the ideas on how to improve things and rolled them out, rather than us imposing conditions on them.”