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Getting Home Safe

The keys to a safe workplace? Partnership and culture.

Ocado Technology Feb 28, 2022Our people5 min read

A healthy people-culture is one of the most important aspects of staying safe at work. HSE Director Gerry Mulholland explains how we are taking our HSE function to the next level. 

As a business, we have a massive range of Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) interests. Our HSE function has a crucial role in our continuing success as we expand our business reach into new global territories, with new client partners, as well as in our operations in the UK. Responsibilities range from keeping our engineering teams safe at our Customer Fulfillment Centres (CFCs) during both construction installation and operational phases, to food safety, to office and home working conditions, and to compliance of our supply chain partners across the full breadth of our operations. There are many others, but across all of them the priority never changes: To make sure every environment we operate in is safe, and that every employee can have an impact on making them safer.

We will always benefit from a culture where the HSE team does not stand apart and judgemental, but where it partners with the business, our employees, and our Supply Chain. To that end, everyone in our HSE team is now an HSE Business Partner. This is a subtle change but a clear signal that our role is to help the business and be part of the business. We're here to support and offer solutions.

gerry square01 hseBlog

“Our role is  to help the business and be part of the business. We're here to support and offer solutions.”

Our CFCs contain large-scale mechanical handling and automated technologies that are maintained by our operations teams. If something goes wrong in one CFC and the lessons could be learned globally, we need to make sure that change is spread across all CFCs. If a Maintenance Technician sees a potential issue, they - and all team members - rely on changes being made everywhere that issue is relevant, as quickly as possible. We have a communication channel across our engineering teams to allow us to do this swiftly.

Teams need to know that we can and will work with that part of the organisation to find solutions. A solution might be technology-based - some material change the business can invest in to make things better. A solution might also include a behaviour that needs to be modified: Why did someone make a particular choice? What cognitive or personal factors might have contributed to a decision made by an individual? What were the facilitating conditions that could have contributed?

We have previously worked with whole teams to agree on behaviours as a group, for the good of the whole. Those teams have readily agreed on things they can call each other out on, designing their own charter in effect, and that information has been effectively disseminated across the global business. 


An HSE Framework

Any business must manage its risk effectively, and in a large Ftse 100 organisation, it’s particularly important that we also govern our HSE risk management efficiently. We are developing a global HSE management system, along with a business-wide HSE Strategy. The Strategy is a framework that defines our objectives and helps map our continued progression, supported by a proactive team of HSE Business Partners. 

We have defined 11 primary sections within the HSE strategy that allows us to measure our performance, manage change where it is required, and continue to encourage an inclusive, accepting, and cooperative HSE culture. These functions include statistical tracking of incidents and data analysis that can improve governance and highlight issues as they occur. They include continual upskilling and personal development of our HSE team members and the development and implementation of sustainable technologies to help realise our HSE ambitions. There’s a specific framework section for our supply chain. It’s crucial that we hold suppliers to high standards as well as ourselves, but it is also important that we define the route, for example, for our employees to report and raise issues in that area.

“We believe partnership, cooperation, personal development, and individual impact are key…"

From the executive level to the CFC, we continually work on awareness, and a practical flow of highlighted issues and discussions that mean risks and solutions go directly to the right level of the business up and down our Governance framework and engagement sessions.

Our executives receive a short HSE Weekly Flash Report to update them on successes and issues. The senior department leaders, such as those for our operations teams, have committed to quarterly workforce and engagement tours. We are forming partnerships with other businesses and exchanging specialist learnings with those partners to help our HSE teams increase their breadth of knowledge of risk management..

From the ‘shop floor’ there are regular site-level meetings to discuss safety issues and solutions. Anything brought up there that applies to a wider section of the business is passed up a hierarchy of opportunities - regional, territorial, and global - to either deal with the issue or implement a measure at that level, or move it up the governance framework chain. A report of a near miss or hazard from an engineer in Cincinnati, for example, allows us to consider an update in our operational standards that could be applied at CFCs around the world.

Culturally Safe

As I write this, we are preparing for a whole-HSE team meeting, held on the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) International Health and Safety at Work Day (28th April). It’s a day of collaboration and communication, entirely in keeping with the ILO’s stated theme of ‘Social Dialogue towards a Positive Safety and Health Culture.’ It’s no coincidence that we believe partnership, cooperation, personal development, and individual impact are key to achieving our stated mission to ‘send everybody home safe and healthy each day.’ 

There is still work to do, but I think our success speaks volumes about our people-centric culture and the value we place on the wellbeing of our employees.

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