Safety always comes first
by David Healy, Head of SHEQ (Safety, Health, Environmental and Quality),
Indigo is a company where the culture around health and safety is so ingrained in the day-to-day business that everyone from field engineers to HR and marketing have a good working knowledge of what’s required. Perhaps it helps that we’re headquartered in the UK, which has some of the most stringent regulations in the world, and that we’re part of a telecoms industry that has a good track record in safety, But the tone is really set by our CEO, Ian Duggan, who constantly reminds us that it is the number one priority over every other aspect of the business.
As Head of SHEQ (Safety, Health, Environmental and Quality), it’s my job not just to maintain our high standards but find ways to drive continual improvement. The good news is that we’ve never had a serious accident, but risk exposure is constant, not least because we can only fully control our side of a business that is often public facing.
The range of risks we encounter demonstrates the unpredictability of what we do. We’ve had surveyors attacked by a farmer and engineers prevented from leaving a cellsite by angry residents. Because we’re intermediaries, working at locations on behalf of clients, we have to rise above the issue and always be professional, courteous and law-abiding. All of this is drilled into our people though continuous and rigorous training.
Signing off on safety
When health and safety issues are structural or equipment related, the response is process driven. One of the most critical stages is at the design phase, ensuring a project is fit for purpose, not just in the build phase but also for the maintenance of the equipment in the future. Our structural engineers and surveyors will not sign off infrastructure unless they’re completely satisfied with the work.
We occasionally come across towers and masts that aren’t strong enough to support an additional piece of kit, or a telegraph pole that is too rotten to remain in use. The principal designer or the project supervisor has a legal responsibility to inform the client. Clients hire Indigo because of our expertise and they almost always take our advice, but we have reported early indications of a problem that have been ignored, resulting in infrastructure failure that could have been avoided.
Because safety is paramount, we endeavour to adopt a collaborative approach with our clients and suppliers alike. This sometimes requires us to remind our clients of their duties if we spot something they may not be immediately aware of. One example was when we took delivery of a piece of equipment that had some exposed electrical terminals. The supplier said it was fine but we have our own electrical procedures for locking out electrical currents and our engineers were concerned. They ended up developing a cap to go over the back of the equipment, which was subsequently approved by the supplier.
All the training we do has an expiry date, because there is a constant need to refresh and keep the messaging in the front of people’s minds. By working closely with our project coordinators and supervisors, we are able to identify nonconformances on sites that we can act on as part of an ongoing process to drive continual improvement.
There are many layers to our training and development, including regular online courses for all the management team. And because of the success we’ve had in embedding health and safety in our culture, learning continues outside of formal training. Under the watch of supervisors and managers, employees are constantly exposed to site safety audits and quality checks that ingrain best practice in everyday tasks.
Like the rest of the business, we’re seeing the benefits of digital transformation. We’re currently working with our IT systems team to put a lot of our processes into Salesforce and we’re exploring the role that AI could play in spotting patterns and trends around the work we do. Digital records are already a massive part of the business. There is an auditable record of everything job, what’s called a safety file on every site, which can be called up if any incident occurs in the future.
It’s also important to be up to date with a fast-changing regulatory environment. Aside from the must-have ISO 45001, the standard for management systems of occupational health and safety, Indigo has ISO 14001, which sets out the requirements for an environmental management system. [See our certifications here] With much greater focus on sustainability and ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) frameworks, clients are always asking us about waste management, not just from the site but across our supply chain. And there is increasing ethical consideration given to where equipment components are procured from.
We’re in over 90 countries so it’s helpful that regulations don’t change all that much across different geographies. Three main priorities are nearly always the same: protect the health and safety of people at work, protect the health and safety of people who are not employees but are affected by our work, and protect our staff from hazards from equipment, materials or processes we might use in the workplace. Business as usual for the Indigo SHEQ team.
To find out more about our SHEQ, ESG and Certifications go to Responsibilities – Indigo (indigotg.com)