Case Study: Valpak

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Basically we meet bi-monthly and we have a selection of employees throughout the workforce so we’ve got production, can line, cardboard and people from the office as well.  So we meet bi-monthly and we discuss all of the issues that have sort of come up within the last few months.

We are very keen on not just bringing problems of bringing good ideas for improvement generally.  And any near misses that we might have had.  I am the budget holder for the site so any decisions can be made and cleared off on the day.  We don’t have to go to further Committee to get sanction.  If there is a health and safety problem we can fasten it down there and then, and leave the meeting with the plan of how we can rectify the situation.

On site we all have different departments.  We have a rep I have a rep for my drivers who will speak to me.  Erm l like I say we come on site we’re not on site twenty four hours we’re out on the road.  We come on site we see something that we think can be improved, we have a card where we will put it down on a card.  One of the drivers whose nominated to do the erm health and safety thing if you will erm we’ll all sit round and discuss it as a team or we can better do it.  We take the advice off the driver what he’s seen what other people won’t see.  Erm all better round we can improve it or erm such things like that.  It’s all feedback.

If there’s any problems or anything like that with myself or any other part of the company it’s we all sit round a table we throw different problems about, we resolve it.

It's all about working as a team in different departments, they work here, we work on vehicles, they start putting stuff into different places.  We come in and see it.  The forklift driver erm won’t see because we’re driving a bigger vehicle and things like that and then one of my drivers will put down such as a way to put it that material shouldn’t be there Derek I can’t get past I’ve only got limited space.  With a vehicle with a big vehicle you need a master space don’t you.  Then we will feed it into the Committee, we’ll all discuss it and say yeah they are right that shouldn’t be there we should move it to somewhere else.  That’s to me erm the Committee we’ve done a good thing there.

We have erm server process in place that are risk cards are developed throughout sort of the 2 months before the Health and Safety Committee.  Erm during the Health and Safety Committee the members will pick the best suggestion.

We also fought at those meetings for err the risk card system and any entrance that had been put in there for the period we will err look at them and identify them in any any good ideas that actually come to fruition they are achievable.  We will give the recommender a £50 err bonus.  I am fairly confident that we run a fairly robust health and safety system here.  That only works because it’s inclusive.

Our accidents stats were at 149 in 2007 now at the end of 2009 we had actually reduced our accidents to 66 and the only reason that we have reduced our figures is through worker involvement and through the support of our employees on site.

If you work together as a team it works.

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Valpak acquired the Preston site three years ago and immediately saw the need for health and safety improvements. Major operational and safety policy changes were necessary in order to develop a profitable business in an often difficult market while providing safe working conditions for employees.

The problem

Four years ago the company audited its health and safety procedures and accident and incident rates. It found problems throughout the organisation illustrated by differences in attitude and understanding of health & safety. Management's understanding was that human behaviour caused 96 per cent of accidents and incidents, while workers felt management took little or no action on reports of safety problems. This suggested poor communications between management and workers and a lack of worker involvement which led to apathy regarding safety reporting. There were also safety considerations relating to the haulage contractor.

The solution

VRL appointed Mark Cockburn (CMIOSH) as Director of Health & Safety to put the new regime into action. First task was an in-depth audit of health and safety, which enabled him to identify problem areas and set about tackling them. He then established a bi-monthly health and safety committee drawn from management and staff, including workforce representatives from production, transport, maintenance and the yard.

The RISK Card (Reduce Incidents Share Knowledge) is an incentive for workers to report any incident, major or minor, to the committee. The card includes a ‘Post an Idea’ box, and there’s a £50 reward if the suggested idea is adopted. The committee aims to reward a winner at each meeting. One successful example was the idea to enclose bottles in mesh to stop them falling out of skips and causing a slip and trip hazard. Another simple but effective idea was a barrier system to limit entry of forklift operators into pedestrian areas.

Recycling Operations Manager, Damian Perkins, explained: ‘We want our workforce to speak up and get involved. The ‘post an idea’ method gets results and if it earns someone a little extra that’s a bonus.’

The initiative has also seen the introduction of roll-on roll-off skips, which means workers are no longer required to lift large trade site bins risking musculoskeletal injury or contamination from waste.

As part of the worker involvement policy, all employees are able to participate in risk assessments for their own work area and are encouraged to check out HSE websites to improve their skills. Drivers, in particular, are responsible for carrying out daily checks on their vehicles and must report any problems in a defect book, ensuring that any faults are dealt with immediately, before work commences.

One of the company’s key safety issues is workplace transport - a major hazard in the recycling industry, which involves pedestrian and vehicle movement both on and off site. VRL recognised that, with company and contractors’ vehicles coming in and out regularly each day, the inherited site had hazards that management and workers needed to sort out together.

As a result, VRL yard staff trained as banksmen - controllers of on- and off-site vehicle movement. These workers now direct all vehicles moving on the site, to ensure the safety of the pedestrian workforce. Movement is managed by allowing only one truck on site at any given time and sticking to a strict timetable. Another outcome was the introduction of clearly marked walkways to segregate pedestrians from vehicles.

Stuart Craig, a driver with VRL for five years, has seen the changes occur first hand. ‘Safety has got much better. The banksmen make site movement much easier to control - and our lives easier. We focus on them and we don’t move without their say so. And the walkways make sure there aren’t people walking haphazardly all over the yard.’

The outcome

Mark Cockburn’s initial health and safety audit for VRL produced a score of 42 per cent. In a recent audit the figure was 92 per cent. Within the last three years the LTIFR (Lost Time Injury Frequency Rates), the accidents and incidents have reduced significantly.

The site has achieved OHSAS 18001, the International Standard for Health & Safety Management Systems.

Steve Gough, Valpak CEO commented: ‘We want Valpak to set a high standard in the industry. Our aim is to demonstrate that you can recycle, make money and do it safely and properly’. He went on to say, ‘I’m so pleased. The statistics show we are heading in the right direction. We will continue to make improvements in both safety and productivity as, in our experience, these two aspects of our business go hand in hand.'

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