Safety inquiry use Fife benchmark

Select Committee members visit Tullis Russell (L-R) Jim McGovern MP, Ian Davidson MP and Lindsay Roy MP
Select Committee members visit Tullis Russell (L-R) Jim McGovern MP, Ian Davidson MP and Lindsay Roy MP

Three of Fife’s largest companies were the focus of attention as members of the Scottish Affairs Committee visited the region last week.

Tullis Russell in Markinch, Raytheon Systems Ltd in Glenrothes and Diageo’s bottling plant in Leven were all earmarked for a visit by the group of MPs.

The members of the Scottish Affairs Committee used the visit to highlight the work they are currently carrying out as part of a national enquiry into health and safety within the workplace.

Glenrothes and Central Fife MP, Lindsay Roy was accompanied by fellow Labour politicians Jim McGovern, the MP for Dundee West and committee chairman, Glasgow South East MP, Ian Davidson.

A commons select committee launched it’s enquiry into all aspects of health and safety in Scotland in April 2011 which be finalised in November.

A report into it’s findings due sometime in March 2012.

All three of the companies were regarded as industry leaders in their respective fields with all having an exemplary level of health and safety structures already implemented within their businesses.

Mr Roy highlighted the fact that all three of the Fife companies were putting good procedures into practice.

He added: “One focus of the inquiry has been the disproportionate number of fatalities and serious injuries in agriculture, construction and aspects of manufacturing in Scotland compared to the rest of the UK.

“However we are also keen to identify areas of outstanding practice in health and safety, of which there are excellent examples within my constituency.

“Despite the emphasis on health and safety these days, there are still some firms who continue to place it pretty far down the list of priorities, but there are those such as the ones we visited in Fife who rightly give it there full attention.

“All three have excellent track records when it comes to looking after the well being of their staff and I felt that this should be brought to the attention of the committee.”

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has released provisional data for the year April 2010 to March 2011, which shows the number of workers killed was 15, down from the previous year, when 21 died.

According to HSE statistics, the period between 2005 and 2009, the average number of workers killed in Scotland each year has been 28.

Paul Stollard, the head of HSE in Scotland, the national regulator for workplace health and safety, said: “The reduction in numbers for Scotland is encouraging but we must not forget that 15 people failed to come home safe and well from their jobs last year.

“We need to make sure we focus our efforts of tackling the real risks in the workplace and be reminded that there is no room for complacency.

“Lasting improvements in occupational health and safety are driven by management leadership and worker involvement. We all, employers, employees and regulators have a role to play in reducing the number of deaths and injuries.”

The Select Committee’s visit to Fife purposely chose to visit, what they thought to be “Three of the region’s centres of excellence.”

Ian Davidson, committee chairman said: “ Our key objective is to report, what we feel as a committee, is the best practice with regard to the implementation and nurture of good health and safety culture within the workplace.

“Sadly there are still a disproportionate areas within Scottish industry that operate within a culture of general bad practice.

“We aim to glean from the efforts made by these three major employers in Fife, and others, to produce a report of key recommendations that will benefit future policy and thinking.”

The committee were keen to know more about the differing demographic of employees the three companies.

The workforce’s at all three companies differ in union and non-union structure. Diageo is heavily unionised, the majority of Tullis Russell’s workforce have union affiliation, while Raytheon Systems is non-unionised.

Jim McGovern MP, himself a former shop steward was intrigued to witness how the three differing companies went about their health and safety procedures.

He said: “It’s interesting to see first-hand how the workforces differ. There is a clear line of communication and support network for workers who are union members.

“I am particularly interested to see how non-union members of the workforce are supported within the company structure with respect to health and safety policy, implementation and any concerns they may raise.”

In the case of Tullis Russell it was clear that both employers and employees are experiencing the clear benefits of an open management structure whereby everyone has a direct input into shaping company policy.

Strong support also comes from the STUC and TUC for the UNITE union health and safety representatives at the paper mill.

Steve Moss, Managing Director at the Markinch site said: ”Our health and safety objectives are clear for everyone involved at Tullis Russell. Any important policy such as this only works best when all employees buy-in to it and drive it forward.”

While historically having a strong safety policy, it was clear to the Select Committee representatives that Tullis Russell had made substantial improvements since the death of a contractor at the Markinch site back in 2008.

Chief Executive, Chris Parr said: “That tragic event sharpened our resolve to tackle all aspects of safety in which Tullis Russell is involved in.

“We have since expanded our safety culture to also include all outside contractors and companies carrying out work on our behalf to adopt to the stringent working procedures that all our own employees adhere to.

“If they don’t then they won’t work on any of our sites.”

Widening the net to include sub-contractors and others coming into contact with the company was something the MP’s were impressed with.

Lindsay Roy said: “All three companies have impressed us with their openness and candour. They have helped greatly to improve discussions with in the aid of improving health and safety issues in Scotland.”

Jim Trail, General Manager at Raytheon Systems told the Gazette the committee members had a clear sight of what they wanted to achieve out of the visit.

He said: “The select committee members asked some really searching questions focusing around how we implement our procedures at this site.

“We have an excellent health and safety record here and we take our commitment to this very seriously indeed.

“All of us connected with Raytheon Systems here in Glenrothes can feel rightly proud of the safe working culture we have here.”

Raytheon Systems Ltd already have in place the ISO 14001 accreditation in place.

The company have also been recognised with a gold award by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) for the last 10 years.

The Select Committee members will now collate their findings which following visits to other areas of the country before reporting back to Westminster

Scottish statistics

n 21 - The number of work related deaths in 2009/10 (RIDDOR)

n 2548 - The number of major injuries to workers in 2009/10 (RIDDOR)

n 93 - The number of offences prosecuted by HSE, 2009/10

n 7 - The number of offences prosecuted by local authorities, 2009/10

15 The number of fatal workplace deaths in Scotland (1 April 2010- 31 March 2011)