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Monday, Jul 09, 2018

Health and Safety are COR to our business

viewpoints_cor

(l to r) Cian McDermott, Matthew Eades & Dave Monaghan 

People often say that we are products of our environment, upbringing and experiences; they shape who we are and how we view life. I have had the misfortune of being affected personally and professionally by tragic events that have influenced my perspective on health and safety. These include the death of my father in an industrial accident when I was 18, the death of a concrete worker at a pumping station project in the UK on which I was the Project Manager, and the death of a pipe layer at a large transmission watermain project in Canada. These experiences have made me sensitive to how quickly accidents can happen and how tragic the consequences can be. They have also reinforced the importance of safety planning and documentation on every project.
 
The Poem, I Chose to Look the Other Way by Don Merrell, is a poignant reminder on the importance of speaking up for safety. 
 
I could have saved a life that day
But I chose to look the other way.
 
It wasn’t that I didn’t care
I had the time, and I was there.
 
But I didn’t want to seem a fool
or argue over a safety rule.
 
I knew he’d done the job before
If I spoke up, he might get sore.
The chances didn’t seem that bad
I’d done the same, He knew I had.
 
So, I shook my head and walked on by
He knew the risks as well as I.
He took the chance, I closed an eye
and with that act, I let him die.
 
I could have saved a life that day
But I chose to look the other way.
 
Now every time I see his wife
I’ll know, I should have saved his life.
That guilt is something I must bear
but it isn’t something you need share.
 
If you see a risk that others take
that puts their health or life at stake.
 
The question asked, or thing you say
could help them live another day.
If you see a risk and walk away
then hope you never have to say
 
could have saved a life that day
But I chose, to look the other way.
 
 In the UK, health and safety in construction have been a major topic of discussion since the late 1990s. In 1994, the Construction Design and Management regulations came into force, and introduced new positions such as the Planning Supervisor. The Planning Supervisor is responsible for coordinating health and safety during the design, construction, commissioning, and demolition of projects. I was trained to undertake this role, and, later in my career, I managed a group of Planning Supervisors advising and fulfilling this role for clients.
 
In my roles overseeing health and safety I have learned that, in the aftermath of any accident, the burden of proof is opposite to what we believe to be a principle in the legal context. In an accident, you are perceived to be guilty until you prove your innocence. The response from Safety Inspectors is, if it is not documented it is hard to believe it is true. This is an important factor to consider.
 
Our perspective should also be influenced by our obligations. As professionals we have an obligation to the public, and as supervisors and workers we have obligations under the Health and Safety Acts in our province.
 
The question that should be asked is, “Have we done everything reasonable to prevent an accident from occurring?” This means applying the same time, effort, money, and resources to health and safety as we do to planning, designing, and managing our services.
 
Health and safety is about risk management which, as engineers, we assess as part of our work on a daily basis. We should look at it through the same lens, and it should be part of our normal way of work and life.
 
Implementing COR (Certificate of Recognition) as a company and formalising our processes (Internal Responsibility System), so that they are auditable by a third party, are forms of quality assurance. We should all look to raise awareness, put in appropriate controls where applicable, be disciplined, and review our plans and learn lessons. It is too easy to become complacent, but accidents can happen and they do happen; and it has, for me, had devastating consequences. 
 
We all need to CARE – Be Considerate, Accountable, Responsible, and Expect. AND NOT LOOK THE OTHER WAY.
 
About the Author:

Matthew Eades has 25 years of consulting, engineering, and project management experience encompassing municipal infrastructure, water and wastewater plants, institutional facilities, buildings and transit. He has participated on projects in Canada and the UK.  As Vice President & General Manager of our Ontario operation, Matt is currently leading our COR certification in Ontario.