FEATURE: Fortec takes health and safety to heart

28 August 2019

The commercial vehicle industry continues to pioneer and champion advances in health and safety and has taken the concept very much to heart.

Of course, all companies have a legal responsibilities and must comply with the many regulations in place, but many in our industry take pride in going way beyond the legal minimum.

For them, health and safety is something is now something to be embraced and celebrated and has come to define them every bit as much as the quality of the products and services or customer service they offer.

But ‘doing’ health and safety properly is far from straightforward. It’s not a case of putting a few new procedures and erecting some signage – it’s a process that requires continuous commitment and the buy-in of everybody, from top to bottom.

One such example of doing health and safety the right way is the Fortec Distribution Network. It’s just carried out a total overhaul of health and safety in a bid to instil and ‘safety first culture’ at its national hub in Watford Gap.

As part of a £3 million expansion of the hub, safety was put to the fore with significant spending on safety and security systems including 260 high resolution CCTV cameras, LED lighting, marked pedestrian zones, safety flooring, truck park surfacing and multi-lingual signs around the site.

The radical shake-up is designed to give everyone, from boardroom to warehouse shop-floor, ownership and to encourage them to take responsibility for both their own and others’ safety, and to speak up if they have any concerns about working practices.

Near-miss reporting stations have been positioned throughout the Watford Gap site to allow team members to submit feedback anonymously if they wish. To further encourage people to speak up, two members of the warehouse team have been trained as Safety Champions.

Instilling the new culture has been achieved in the past year following a systematic and strategic programme of training, communications and engagement with staff, with an inter-departmental group ensuring cross-company buy-in to the vision.

The entire accident reporting process was overhauled to remove a ‘tick box culture’ and replace it with a proactive approach, where accidents and near-misses are scrutinised for opportunities to make the working environment safer.

Every task in the hub has been fully reviewed in the past 12 months from a health and safety angle, a full site risk assessment was carried out and gas and fire safety procedures reviewed.

A Continuous Improvement Process (CIP) was developed that includes a progress tracker incorporating data for all elements of the business and progress reported through a bi-monthly newsletter called ‘At Your Convenience’ that was posted up in toilets and emailed to all staff.

Stuart White, General Manager Operations, Fortec Distribution Network, commented: “We want to get everyone on board because otherwise you don’t get change.

“Honest feedback is vital because when we hear about near-misses it gives more information about how we can best avoid accidents happening in future. Everyone needs to take responsibility for their own safety and that of their colleagues.”

Fortec has also invested heavily in training, with all the team leaders, supervisors and the Day Manager and Night Manager completing the IOSH Managing Safety course and courses in Managing Forklift Operations Safely and Accident Investigation Training.

The network has also established its own forklift truck training for new and existing recruits. Two members of staff have been supported by the business to qualify as Association of Industrial Truck Trainers (AITT) instructors and so far, they have trained around 60 new recruits.