Safety Never Stops: Interview with Peter Burslem our Operations Director

14 Jan 16

Peter’s passion for health and safety has resulted in Mount Anvil being an exemplar business in this regard. In this interview he explains the Safety Never Stops campaign and how quality, safety and profit are inextricably linked. Read more below.

Peter joined our team in 2002 and oversees the successful delivery of all developments from post-acquisition to final handover. In 2015, the British Safety Council recognised Mount Anvil as the UK’s Number 1 Company for health and safety, awarding a 5-star rating, an unprecedented audit score of 99.8% and the prestigious Sword of Honour. In this interview he explains the Safety Never Stops campaign and how quality, safety and profit are inextricably linked. 


What was your motivation behind the Safety Never Stops campaign and annual seminar?

"Mount Anvil has always had a strong focus on health and safety, but in recent years we’ve really stepped it up a level.

In many companies, people in different job roles work in isolation from each other; there’s no sharing of practices, lessons learnt and no uniformity. Step one was to take everything back to a common baseline – a single template that applied to directors, office staff and on-site teams. We built a unified foundation for a better approach to health and safety, which we titled Safety Never Stops, and from there things came together very quickly.

The big thing was to make people realise that health and safety isn’t a set of hoops to be jumped through – it’s something that is hugely important and relevant to everyone. These standards and processes exist to ensure that people are safe and well at work. It’s that simple. You let people see that ‘Why’, and suddenly the ‘Hows’ make a lot more sense. Everyone needs to be on board and play their part to feel the benefit.

The Safety Never Stops seminar reinforces the above ethos and it would be a real shame if we achieved such positive changes and didn’t share them with our clients and supply chain so they too could learn from us.  This has now developed further; we invite external speakers to the seminar, such as specialists in nutrition and behavioural safety to reinforce our message and help everyone think and act a little differently."

Some people tend to turn off when you mention health and safety, how do you bypass that and get everyone on the same page?

"Lots of ways – firstly by communicating to people that our procedures ensure their wellbeing and personal safety. Also, by finding new ways of engaging people, like the seminar, and not just the safety professional turning up with a clipboard telling them they’ve done something wrong.

We make hazard reporting easy. We incentivise great performance in health and safety with prizes – Red Letter Days or meals out, for example, and we invite people who have had accidents on site to come in and talk about their experience.

You need to keep it fresh – and to appreciate that people are already under a lot of time pressure in their work. We make it personal, easy, and engaging.

One of the benefits of making health and safety such a core part of our working culture is that it becomes self-regulating. If everyone’s reporting hazards and working in a certain way, then it becomes socially unacceptable not to."

You mentioned that hazard reporting at Mount Anvil is easy – how? 

"Well there’s a risk, especially on-site, that people come to think of reporting hazards as just another thing that takes up their time – something that prevents them from doing ‘actual work’. Hazard reporting is really about helping them to do their job in the best possible environment.

We partnered with a software company to build a web-based reporting system that minimises time constraints. Contractors can log a hazard from their phone or text a hazard in – reporting is quick and easy so it’s become automatic for people.

Some developers actually penalise contractors for reporting risks, and a lot of others only record ‘near misses’ – accidents where there hasn’t been an injury. That’s just not good enough.

You need to be catching those things earlier, recording behaviours, materials and processes that could cause an incident, not waiting to report things that have – it’s about breaking the accident chain. Getting that volume of hazard data in and crunching the numbers is essential to learning and improving."

Health is often the forgotten part of health and safety – how does Mount Anvil address that?

"That’s very true, particularly in construction since safety is such an important consideration. Health is just as important, if not more so in some ways. If someone breathes in dust today, it won’t affect them for 30 years. If someone falls and breaks their arm today, that’s real and it’s happening now. That’s why people find it easy to ignore the ‘health’ element of our job and focus on safety.

We know that’s not good enough. We employ a full-time paramedic who is passionate about proactive health management. He goes to sites, educates people and provides free medicals for our employees and our subcontractors. We’ve also partnered with FitBit, rolling out fitness tracking devices to our 180 people and launched an active lifestyle campaign called ‘Walk to the Moon’. Just like our approach to safety, it’s about proactive health management."

Is there a relationship between Mount Anvil’s Health and Safety culture and its award-winning homes?

"The two are completely linked. If people feel safe and have a great team of people looking out for them, they’ll feel valued and safe; they can concentrate on doing their job well.

Sites with poor safety just couldn’t ever sustainably deliver the kind of homes that Mount Anvil does.

Poor quality = poor safety = poor profit

Excellent quality = excellent safety = excellent profit

It is easy to try to cut corners with health and safety because it needs a real commitment of time and money – but organisations can’t afford to not make that commitment. The down time on a major project for a day costs tens of thousands of pounds, so it’s financially important, but it’s also important in terms of duty of care, keeping morale high on site and ensuring the quality of the end product.

A business simply cannot survive long term with a poor health and safety record.  As we get bigger, more complex and build higher structures, risks increase – we must adapt.  We adapt to thrive, not adapt to survive. My message is clear. We should not think of health and safety as something we begrudgingly have to do. It is something we must embrace, celebrate and raise to the fore."


To read more about the Safety and Health Practitioner online visit their website.

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