• Lighthouse Club – Safety Leadership Awards 2013

    9 May 2013

    The best run safety programmes in Hong Kong’s construction industry were lauded at The Lighthouse Club’s Safety Awards last month, with top honours won by two government civil engineering departments, Lambeth Associates, Aedas and MTR Corp Ltd.

    Safety Awards in PRC 2013 1At the 8 March ceremony, the Lighthouse Club’s safety committee chairman Mark Divers spelled out the purpose of the awards as a leading recognition for organisations that put safety at the forefront of their business ethics and activities. He said the awards “promote good health and safety leadership and management which is the main purpose of this evening with the presentations of the Lighthouse Club and Construction Industry Council Safety Leadership Awards and the Golden Helmet Award.”

    Safety Awards in PRC 2013 11The highlight of the evening is the Golden Helmet award. Mr Divers said it celebrated the work of an individual with exemplary safety leadership within the construction industry. This year’s winner was the director of the MTR Corp’s projects division, T.C. Chew. MTR Corp also claimed the gold trophy in the Client-Developer category of the safety awards.

    A rarity among industry groups, including Hong Kong’s construction industry, the Lighthouse Club is proudly apolitical. It operates in an environment closer to collegial than it is corporate. But that’s not to say it members do not appreciate professionalism. They are passionately devoted to the club’s leading raison d’être: safety.

    Since 1986, the Lighthouse Club has been a significant force for good in Hong Kong’s construction industry. At a time when safety was often a secondary consideration and the pursuit of profit was the single most important driving force on construction sites, the club bought together concerned members of the industry, working across the entire spectrum of construction. The first members shared a common desire to look out for the people that construction would not – or could not – take care of. They have helped make safety a banner issue.

    Move forward 27 years, and the club has developed a presence throughout the Middle East, the Asia-Pacific region and has spread from Britain, right across Europe.

    Safety Awards in PRC 2013 7The Lighthouse Club Benevolent Fund is a source of financial aid and development for construction workers around Asia. The fund’s aims vary according to need but the uniting theme is funding for workers’ needs. In Thailand, the fund provides direct aid to fund and finance the operation of schools. In the Philippines, the fund is deployed to sponsor children studying a trade or profession tied to the construction industry.

    At the club’s homebase in Britain, the fund was established in the 1960s with a more traditional scope of providing charity to the victims of workplace accidents or serious illness, and to supporting families that lose their bread-winners in fatal accidents.

    The club’s deputy chairman in Hong Kong, John Battersby, is quick to point out that at the heart of the club is the promotion of fellowship. An ethos of openness and camaraderie is crucial and it is underpinned by communication between the club’s membership.

    Excellent communication is also at the heart of each of the winning submissions at this year’s safety awards.

    The club’s Leadership Awards were born during discussions within the construction group at The British Chamber of Commerce. Overlooked by some in construction, the chamber felt site safety was an issue too big to ignore.

    Safety Awards in PRC 2013 6The Client-Developer Category celebrates “exemplary safety leadership” for the lifespan of a project, from inception to design and on the site. The category includes government departments and two claimed a joint silver award this year. The judging panel, led by Hong Kong University academic Steve Rowlinson, awarded the trophy to the Civil Engineering and Development Department and the Drainage Services Department.

    The Hong Kong government’s drainage department covers some of the most dangerous and inhospitable sites in the city – from tunnelling 160 metres underground, to the rooftops of the city’s towering skyscrapers – but is one of the government’s smallest engineering groups.

    Deputy Director Tsui Wai told PRC magazine the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme was a massive project, whose second stage was now in full swing. At an estimated cost of HK$17.2 billion, the second stage will connect eight sewerage treatment plants on Hong Kong Island to the city’s main water treatment site on Stonecutter’s Island. “About 10 years ago with Stage 1 there were quite a lot of accidents because tunnel works are inherently dangerous. Of course the more hazardous it is, the more effort you can put into safety. That’s why we put a lot of effort into safety,” he said.

    The department has run five individual safety campaigns over the past six months, in addition to training and education mandated by law. The department works closely with the Labour Department and invites other specialist bodies to consult on specific issues.

    Safety Awards in PRC 2013 8Accident rates have fallen substantially. The drainage department is considered one of the government’s better performing departments with 0.24 non-fatal accidents recorded per 100,000 man-hours worked last year, according to government data.

    “I think the big turnaround is human factors. Before the project was at the centre but we are shifting a little bit. The project is still important but I think the people, the staff, are now more in the picture. Whether our projects are successful or not depends on the people. ‘People’ includes ourselves, as well as the contractors and the consultants.”

    Wai added the foundation for an improvement in safety had come from building more meaningful relationships with contractors, and introducing better lines of communication with their management and workers.

    An increase in site visits to gauge working conditions, combined with regular meetings to communicate schedules, details and push for safer conditions were now baked into the department’s policy from the top directors down.

    Wai concludes, “Safety is the team’s problem but before you can get to that, you have to build a team.”

    Safety Awards in PRC 2013 10Civil Engineering and Development Department deputy director Chan Chi-ming helps administer a HK$3.5-billion project budget each year on jobs that cover the length and breadth of Hong Kong. “I think what sets us apart is the degree of attention that we pay to safety,” he said.

    “In the past couple of years we have introduced our own annual commendation and award scheme. Every quarter we issue commendation letters and once a year we issue an annual award.”

    The department also claimed a silver award for making a “mature health and safety management system” part of daily business, Mr Divers said. The department had shown leadership and a displayed a unique focus on research to drive effective safety improvement programmes.

    Mr Chan told PRC magazine the department was dedicated to integrating the best practices of construction from the West and applying them in Hong Kong. It had beefed up its programme of site visits, with 131 site visits by directorate-level staff in the past year. The department’s safety and environmental adviser, Kevin LEE, said the strong on-site presence was paired with training, teaching, audits, morning safety briefings and fortnightly safety talks – as a standard. It also provided a free-of-charge safety plan to smaller contractors.

    “These are not just figures. There are stories and families behind them,” Mr Lee said.

    Apart from dedicated resources to monitor site safety and manage an independent grading system of its contractors, the department has flagged two important initiatives. It plans to write more contracts specifying that uniforms must be worn by contractors and it is investigating more academic research into all on-site safety breaches.

    Safety Awards in PRC 2013 9“If we can reduce near misses, eventually, we can reduce the serious ones. We need to have a system where all near-miss incidents are reported. That would eventually help improve safety,” Mr Chan said.

    The Lighthouse Club’s Safety Awards are a must for any construction company serious about safety and invaluable to maintaining the highest standards. Mr Chan said the award was an achievement, but also a significant motivating force to continue to improve.

    Aedas senior director Kyran Sze sees his company’s award as encouraging. “The award is good encouragement of Aedas’ strong effort in making our building sites safe,” he said.

    With solid support from the industry, The Lighthouse Club is lighting a safe path that others can follow.


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