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.

Andy Baird
Operations Manager, Newhouse


Join the conversation! 9 Comments

  1. I agree Sarah, a worthy investment and great to hear about all the other positive health and safety initiatives too.

  2. I work in the claims team at head office and see when a lack of H&S leads to serious accidents.

    The tech is well worth the money and is recommended by the industry and insurers. Not only does it keep people safe its also reassuring the staff daily, which is great. I have seen first hand some of the planning and thought that went into this & I have been impressed with the decision making and consideration for colleague safety all the way through.

    If you consider the hierarchy of control then eliminating the hazard is the best way to keep colleagues safe – I support this wholeheartedly, you only need to see recent case law to understand how high the risk is, and the potential cost to the business.

    Great work, Tony & the team!

  3. I worked in Logistics for many years. Our remedy was, sign to say turn off engine while loading.

    Red light no go

    Green light ok to leave.

    Even agency, new, foreign drivers all understood this.

    The other way, hand keys into office when loading. Pick them up with Paperwork when complete.

  4. Wherever I’ve flown, all over the world, a similar problem is managed by ground crew waving at the aircraft with bats or torches

  5. Err…. Couldn’t the drivers get out of their cabs and come round to the back of the wagon to see the load being put onto the vehicle?

    It might take them 20 seconds to do that and I’m sure the loading takes longer than that.

    That would stop them driving off while it was being loaded and wouldn’t cost £2 million to put in.

    • Have you been to a depot? They don’t load the lorries with a tail lift. The lorry backs up to a bay and “connects” with the warehouse giving a sealed connection enabling the warehouse staff and the machinery they use to move in and out whilst keeping on one level and one temperature. Thus even if the driver did go to the back of the lorry, there’s no sure way to tell if it’s still being loaded apart from the lights, which can malfunction and may not be understood by agency drivers etc.

    • I’m guessing the drivers are not there when they are loaded. they pick up a vehicle and take it straight away.

    • I agree. £ 2 million to ensure drivers turn off their engines does seem a tad expensive to be sure. Did we investigate other solutions first? We are making cuts left right and centre, while stuffing money in some suspect projects such as the new “Local” website. Food IT are outsourcing important 1st line operations. Group have told the Funeral care brass band to vacate their venue and stopped their funding. Are we definitely checking before we pay or stop paying for something thoroughly first?

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