Health and safety in our depots might not be the most exciting subject, but it’s a really important part of our Stronger Co-op, Stronger Communities ambition, and the changes we’ve seen since our new H&S manager arrived at Newhouse are nothing short of amazing.
Newhouse is a busy depot as we have 1,200 colleagues working night and day – drivers, managers, pickers, cleaners and administrators. Add in the lorries and fork lift trucks and it’s easy to see why health and safety is so important.
Just a few years back, in 2016 our accident stats weren’t great – we had 20 serious accidents that year, and the average rate of accidents a colleague could expect over a lifetime working at Newhouse was almost 7. Clearly work needed to be done.
In 2016 H&S Manager Tony Fulton arrived and shook the place up. As well as really knowing his stuff, he brought so much energy and a real sense of Co-op values, so people really got behind what he was doing. Tony gave colleagues the change to get more involved in health and safety and made it a standing agenda item at every shift briefing. He also introduced H&S one-to-ones for every colleague and monthly meetings and forums where concerns can be discussed and escalated to managers if needed. We also have banners up with safety reminders, and a few times a day safety messages will come out over the tannoy.
Groundbreaking technology to keep colleagues safe
The biggest change though has been a £2 million investment in a system by Castell which is an impressive bit of kit and we were one of the first in the UK to use it. It’s basically a foolproof way to prevent one of the biggest risks in a depot – drivers leaving bays while their truck is being loaded or unloaded. If there’s someone in the back of their truck this could have tragic consequences as some retailers have seen.
With the Castell system this can’t happen as it automatically disables a lorry’s engine while it’s being loaded or unloaded. Before that drivers had to rely on a light system, but that wasn’t foolproof as lights could malfunction and sometimes drivers from other companies or countries weren’t used to it.
The Co-op’s also invested in MySafety, a new incident management system that’s being rolled out over the next few months. It’ll make it a lot easier for colleagues to report incidents and near misses, any time on any device.
If we invest in safety everyone wins
Health and Safety is one of those areas you have to invest in before you can save money, and the money and time we’ve invested in Castell and other initiatives will pay for themselves over time. The better we are at H&S, the fewer claims for compensation we’ll have and the smaller our insurance bill will be. It will also reduce downtime and staff turnover in the depot too. As a business we’d much rather spend money on improving our depot than defending and paying out claims, and it’s great to see things going this way.
We’re seeing benefits already as our accident rates and claims have dramatically dropped. And if an accident does happen, Tony’s trained the team to do proper investigations and reconstructions, so we can get to the bottom of what happened and prevent it from happening again.
For me, the biggest benefit of everything we’re doing is seeing colleague reactions. We’ve always said that colleagues getting home is our first priority, but maybe it just felt like a line. Now that colleagues see us investing and making changes and involving them, they really believe how much we care.
Operations Manager, Newhouse