Chep UK

Company profile

  • No. of employees: 1400 factory staff, 2200 total
  • Business sector: Services
  • Business activities: Pallet management
  • Location: UK-wide
  • Stakeholders: Employees, company, shareholders

Chep UK manufactures, repairs and distributes pallets in the UK and Europe. Their 1400 factory employees have improved safety and reduced accidents through a behavioural safety programme. The company benefits from reduced staff absence and injury costs.

The challenge

In 1999 Chep UK's lost time incident rate was around 44 per 1,000,000 hours worked. Following two particularly serious accidents, senior managers in the company decided to raise the profile of health and safety within Chep UK. A behavioural safety programme was identified as the way to do this.

What did the company do?

Chep UK initiated a behavioural safety programme across its 11 UK sites in 1997. COMBS (Chep observational measure in behavioural safety) involves employees carrying out 'observations' of their colleagues' safe and unsafe behaviours at work, and discussing improvements with them. The programme includes:

Business benefits

Health and safety benefits

Cost benefits

An aggregate of the estimated annual costs (training costs, observer's time, observer's salaries, and manager's time) is around £145,000.

In 1999 Chep UK lost 550 8-hour working days through workplace injuries. By 2003 this had dropped to 301/year. RIDDOR accidents have dropped from 45 in 1999 to 27 in 2003. The savings from such improvements are around £285,000 per year (savings in lost staff time, production interruptions, civil claims, non-RIDDOR accidents averted etc).


The Operations Director is responsible for health and safety issues within Chep. He was very supportive of the programme, initially for its trial in Manchester and later for the national rollout. He attends the national meeting of observers each year and receives regular updates on performance.

Worker involvement

Shop floor workers are intimately involved in the development of the initiative as they have become the trained observers. While initiated by senior managers, Chep UK's approach to behavioural safety has been that it is owned and managed largely by the workforce. Non-trade union safety representatives were consulted at the planning stage and are very positive about COMBS' performance.

'The hidden benefits from our behavioural safety initiative have been in the personal development of our shop floor staff'

David Fanning, Health and Safety Manager, UK and Ireland

'It has delivered a genuine step change in the shop floor attitude and the safety culture.'

Vince McGurk, Director-Operations and Quality, UK and Ireland Chep UK.

Updated 2021-08-03