Al Naboodah’s HSE manager makes the case for leading indicators

In the wake of Al Naboodah’s 2016 sustainability report, the group’s SHEQ manager, Robert Munn discusses the limitations of lagging indicators as a measure of safety on site and points to the need for a more proactive approach

Nothing to hide: Construction Week tours an Al Naboodah Group Enterprises project site.
Nothing to hide: Construction Week tours an Al Naboodah Group Enterprises project site.

Following the release by Al Naboodah Group Enterprises (ANGE) of its 2016 sustainability report, Robert Munn GM for safety, health, environments and sustainability (SHEQ) sat down with Construction Week to discuss the limitations of lagging indicators as a measure of health and safety on site and make the case for a more proactive approach.

In its report, the group reported a lost time injury (LTI) frequency rate per 100,000 manhours of just 0.14 across its construction businesses in 2016 — down from 0.15 in 2015, and from 0.39 in 2014 — as well as zero workplace-related fatalities.

Munn details: “Last year as a business, we had seven LTIs over 50 million manhours worked — which is pretty good in any industry. This year, we have set ourselves the target of improving this to 0.12 — but the problem with targets that low is just a couple of incidents will prevent you from hit them.”

Lagging indicators are part of a very traditional way of looking at safety, he argues, that fails to take into account the full scope of a contractor’s efforts towards improving health and safety on site.

He explains: “At present, you have one accident then suddenly you’re failing. And yet in reality you’re not failing: you’re doing really well on all the other things, and so what they want to do is promote the positive side of it, and not just focus on the negative.”

“So we’re trying to move away from the lagging indicators, and to focus on leading indicators, including inspections by project managers, safety talks by senior managers — effective and visible safety leadership on site – so this is all good stuff.”

To this end, ANGE also launched a visual impact training programme earlier this year, and so far the initiative is being received well by the industry at large — and has drawn a positive response from both Dubai Airports and the Expo 2020 management team.

Another leading indicator is near misses, which Munn notes, are a free lesson that can be used to identify areas of risk, but which currently go unreported — a problem that he attributes to reluctance on the part of project managers and project directors to report close calls.

He notes: “You’re probably having more than are actually being reported, but we need to change the culture so that people feel able to come and report a near miss—then we can learn from it.

“If we investigate it properly and put the right corrective actions in, it won’t happen the next time, and we can potentially stop an accident.

As an organisation, ANGE has focused heavily on near miss reporting this year, as one of its leading indicators, and has seen a steady rise, month on month, in the number that are being reported.

Munn comments: “Some of the operations teams think: ‘Why are we having so many?’ And I tell them: ‘You’ve always had so many; you just didn’t know’, but it will peak and then hopefully start to come down and level off as unsafe situations are addressed.”

For the moment, however, LTI frequencies preoccupy the industry, with everything from prequalifications and technical submissions for tenders relying the figures.

Munn explains “People are still focused on those accident rates — and so we focus heavily on this, and it’s part of our employee performance appraisals.”

The challenge is to shift the industry’s thinking from a reactionary mindset to a proactive one, and Munn notes: “Until there is a change in mindset then it will always be that way.

“However, we’re working on one project at the moment that’s been very refreshing: they’ve asked us to display the leading indicator statistics, which was great — and a first for me in my nine years here — and I said I’d love to do it.”

Munn is therefore optimistic about a future where a growing number of clients and consultants look beyond LTIs to the fuller picture of contractor attitudes towards health and safety on site.

He adds: “I’ve seen massive change here. In nine years the place has improved dramatically: there’s a lot more regulation in place, and there’s much better compliance with those regulations by the bigger contractors, and even now moving down through supply chains.”

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