Case Study: Murraywood Construction Ltd

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There’s two people that own this business.  That’s me and Tim Wood.  Two lads from Warrington started off and as far as we were concerned the only thing that would bring us down was a bad accident.  So basically safety was paramount.  Whether he’s brushing up, whether he’s installing drainage, whether he’s constructing a foundation, everyone of them lads are important to us.  If there’s something that they’re not happy with we try and promote that you are you are your own safety officer.  You don’t get dictated to.

The voice meeting err is basically carried out on a monthly basis on each site and it’s an open forum for us to talk to the guys about any health and safety changes or developments or new procedures that might be coming into place.  It gives the guys a chance to put forward any suggestions or any comments that they might have.  It also gives the guys the opportunity to come to us and raise any issues that they might have on a site level.  We set ourselves scores on how many voice meetings we carry out quarterly per site.  We also monitor how many toolbox talks we carry out with the guys.  Interaction with risk assessments and method statements.

From day one on the site we do what we call a method statement risk assessment which either Simon or myself will do.  We actually brief the guys on what they are actually doing.  Show them the drawings where they are working to.  Take them to site.  If they come up with any better ideas of how to do the job safely we change that method statement risk assessment to suit.  We also have what we call black hats which err supervisors in each gang, and if they’ve got any problems amongst that gang over and above the lads actually coming to speak to us about it.  The black hat will come over and say hang on Mike can we not do it this way.  We’ll go and have a look.  We’ll stop actually what we are doing we’ll go and have a look at the job and yes if we can do it that way we change it to suit.

We get good feedback from the meetings and all that you know in the cabins and that.

You’ve got don’t want buy which is where people can put in don’t want buy cards about something they’ve seen on site.  We’re very approachable people will come up and talk to you and say if they think things are not right.  We have formal interviews where we invite people to answer questions about how they think safety is being managed on site.  One of the questions is.  If you had a £1,000 to spend on site what would you spend it on?  We get really good answers they are nothing like a £1,000 so we’ve very often able to do what they ask.  And there’s other informal and formal ways that they can speak to us.  A lot of people say to me do you go round telling people don’t do this don’t do that don't do the next thing, I don’t.  It’s really important that they come up with themselves the ideas.

They actually see the changes that’s the key thing.  They don’t just come in and tell us about this they actually see it happening.  One of the reasons it does work is because we do we do listen to them. 
We’ve got a good retention rate with our staff.  I think it’s something over 60% of the staff have been here for longer than 6 years which means that the management team get to build a good relationship with the guys and build a good reppoire.

One of the reasons that we are where we are now is because we do run a tight ship health and safety wise, make sure it’s right and our clients appreciate that and we get repeat business from it.
If there’s a problem I see it.  I let them know.  It’s like the other day there was the forks had backed over a tin of paint it was near a manhole so I shouted to the site manager do you know what I mean.  Said hey look someone has spilt the paint on that.  And within ten minutes they had already been over spilt it cleaned it all up.

Everybody looking after everybody else really just keeping it like that.

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Formed in 1996 in Warrington, Cheshire, Murraywood Construction specialises in civil engineering and groundwork. This includes excavating and constructing foundations, installing drainage systems and preparing for services installation. Annual turnover for the past three years has averaged between £16-17 million. They employ 144 staff directly and have an excellent staff retention: 40 per cent have been with them for over six years. They currently have more than 15 contracts in the North West and North Wales ranging between £50K and £20 million. One of these is the construction of the new Greater Manchester Police headquarters near Oldham.

The problem

The challenge that the company faces is to meet the constant need to keep the job simple and accident-free, in a period of rapid development and testing requirements. Director Billy Murray says: 'We want the work to be done the right way every time, with policies to ensure the safety of our men and the quality of the job. So we’ve set ourselves a problem to ‘This is what needs to be done. How can we do it safely?’

The solution

Every month a board-level health and safety meeting considers relevant topics. Workforce health and safety representative Simon Clifton receives a copy of the minutes for comment and discussion. He then conducts two open forums, known as ‘voice meetings’, each month with workers in a continuous cycle so that all workers on all sites are included every quarter. Here, workers deliver their own views on health and safety issues, procedures and training, with reference to both their own and other sites throughout the company. The next health and safety meeting then considers their comments and concerns, and instigates any necessary action.

Said Billy: ‘It’s a constant two-way process and it works well. Our maxim is that everyone has an equally important role, whether it’s the person brushing up or the operator of a 21 ton excavator. Everyone looks after each other. Management doors are always open to any worker who has a safety concern. We always listen and take the necessary action.’

Mike Walsh, project manager at the Oldham site, joined the firm at its outset as a flagger and kerber. He worked his way up to management level and values his practical industry background as a vital help assessing any safety problems specific to that area.

He quotes a number of instances where worker involvement has enabled management to act on potentially dangerous situations:

'One of our men reported a hazard involving a lot of trailing electricity leads. There were around thirty of them in a new building where a mix of tradesmen, some from other sub contractors, were working on different tasks. We noted the report, took action and set up exclusions zones and conduits for the wires, so that people wouldn’t accidentally come into contact with the cables.'

'On another occasion workers voiced their concern about the position of a crane, which was directly above their operating area. The health and safety meeting considered the situation, and decided to change the direction of the crane to remove any potential risk.'

Some of Murraywood’s operators of large plant had to complete a detailed, daily set of papers relating to risk assessment and machinery inspection requirements. They raised the matter at a forum, pointing out that the paper filling was time consuming and complex, raising the possibility of error or oversight. Says Billy: 'We resolved that by providing a pre-printed duplicate pad with response boxes, to show they’ve carried out the necessary safety and risk assessments.'

Workers and management together banned the wearing of ‘rigger’ boots. 'They now wear boots with proper ankle protection, as in the past we had men suffering ankle damage when dismounting from high vehicles,' says Simon Ball.

Ian McNicholas, a ground worker who has been with Murraywood for twelve years, commented: 'I know that if I have any problem in terms of safety I can speak directly with management and it will be resolved. If I see something which could be a safety problem I would raise it even though it was not directly related to my job, and my co-workers would do the same. We know something would be done about it.'

The outcome

Murraywood’s policy of worker involvement and engagement has paid dividends in both its safety record and workforce morale.

Says Billy Murray: 'We are working together, management and employees, with a common aim: prevention rather than reaction, education rather than dictation, and safety for everyone.

'Our accident statistics vary from year to year dependent on the number of hours worked but are generally low. This has resulted in a 50 per cent reduction in our insurance premiums annually since 2006. Our broker says that in the main, the reduction is due to the risk management that Murraywood have in place - as well as robust health and safety policies, procedures and training to help prevent accidents.'

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