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A Near Miss

posted 24/08/2017 - 11:42

An incident at one of TemcoUK’s clients highlighted the fact that even the most professional health and safety systems cannot foresee every eventuality. When incidents do occur though, a contractor is to be judged by its reaction in preventing further incidents.

The contract in this instance was at the headquarters of a major multi national. The task being carried out was the periodic cleaning of cobwebs and dust at higher levels, so not every day cleaning. The operative had had comprehensive training and was properly equipped with all that was required for the job, including telescopic poles.

In spite of this, in a totally unforeseeable circumstance, the operative chose to step onto a dangerous ledge and vacuum an area. He was spotted by an employee of the client and quite rightly, reported.

Investigation

As a matter of priority the incident was escalated to the highest level at TemcoUK for investigation to identify the root cause so systems could be amended to improve safety across the organisation.

Several issues were identified. Clearly the Health and Safety documentation had been ignored and the operative had put his own safety in jeopardy. In fact, the extent to which the operative was prepared to go to do a good job was extraordinary – he was very concerned to do a good job, but had obviously lost sight of safety issues in that pursuit. When interviewed he was shocked and extremely sorry, but it was emphasized that the investigation was not to apportion blame or create scapegoats, but to learn and prevent recurrence.

This incident highlighted the difference between having a good documented system and the actual behaviour of the staff carrying out the work. Despite having a very specific Method Statement which had been successfully used for a number of years the employee had momentarily chosen to adopt their own method.

Implementing changes

The main changes that were assessed were to improve the quality of the Method Statement and introduce a new safety briefing before the task is undertaken. One person was made responsible for the explanation and implementation of the agreed system of work.

Although not seen as a direct cause of this incident planning was reviewed to ensure that staff had all the correct working equipment and supplies to carry out the job in line with the agreed Method Statement. This resulted in a new check sheet being created for all tasks which must be completed a minimum of 24 hours before the job is undertaken.

Retraining

Refresher training was deemed essential to ensure the entire workforce was aware of what had occurred and to introduce the new systems. Improved formal training was also reviewed and all staff responsible for briefing were sent on an IOSH Working Safely Course. In addition key staff were trained as trainers for all equipment to ensure that its use was correct.

Finally all associated paperwork was reviewed and amended so it was a very quick and easy job for the competent person to create very clear and detailed safety instructions for the staff undertaking any particular task.

Positive outcome

Andrew Philpot, Managing Director of TemcoUK Facility Services, was upbeat about the process.

“The enhancements resulting from our review of all our procedures have been spread across the entire company. This has included drawing up improved training matrices, ensuring its traceability and retraining all staff. In the end I feel very positive about this incident as we emerge an even safer provider. The client is totally satisfied with our remedial measures. Fortunately it was a ‘near miss’ in which no one was hurt but it emphasises the need to constantly challenge and review your processes which may have worked without incident for a number of years.”

About TemcoUK Facility Services

Since 2001 Temco has been operating in the UK in a wide range of environments, from servicing the meticulous demands of medical clean rooms to daily office cleaning in commercial and industrial environments in both private and public sectors.

Combining professional standards with flexible management structures, the company prides itself on offering consistently high results alongside outstanding client service.  Based in west London, TemcoUK Facility Services employs over 450 staff with a turnover in excess of £5m.

 

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