Case study: Devonport Docks

Devonport Royal Dockyard committed to changing their health and safety culture using a number of initiatives to get the whole workforce involved in managing health and safety issues, ranging from working at height to radiation.

The challenge

In an industry with an established culture, the real challenge was making a commitment to develop a health and safety culture where the workforce is engaged and involved.

How has the health and safety culture been changed?

In 2006 a Safety Culture Team was formed and this includes an industrial health and safety representative on secondment from production. The trade union guidance group, involving proactive members from each union, look at ground root safety, personal protective equipment (PPE), and better practice in risk assessments. They co-ordinate weekly safety meetings and also visit other companies to keep improving communication and joint working with the health and safety representatives.

Mike Tabb, Convenor and Health and Safety Representative, Amicus/Unite, said:
'This sounds long-winded but it works. Staff are starting to believe that management is serious about [health and] safety.'

How is the workforce involved in tackling health and safety?

  • Staff take part in a "Time Out for Safety" session every Monday at 11 am for thirty minutes. They are encouraged to bring any safety matters to the attention of the team leader and to discuss any ideas they have for safer working.
  • The Accident Prevention Team of middle managers and health and safety representatives from each area meet once a month and deal with anything that cannot be dealt with at Time Out for Safety sessions.
  • The Safety Improving Team, including the chair of the Accident Prevention Team and two senior health and safety representatives (both union and non-industrial representatives), then look at issues that the Accident Prevention Team cannot deal with - this group also meet on a monthly basis.
  • The highest tier is at director level, the Executive Safety Improvement Group, who control the budget to make the changes in all health and safety matters. The meetings involve the top management and directors, but also involve the trade unions. They also liaise with the unions on policy changes.

Has the culture changed?

It was a particular challenge to get workers to accept this culture change after 300 years of people believing they were working safely. And there are still the majority who believe the company is not seriously committed - but we are getting there!

'The big stick approach does not work. Only by working together can we succeed - we all have nothing to lose and everything to gain.'

Benefits so far

  • Accidents have been reduced by 35%
  • Profits are up by 8%
  • Sickness absence is below 3%

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