Sign of safe solutions: It’s all about behaviour and embracing leadership

In the last issue of TIMES, Royal Wagenborg CEO’s Egbert Vuursteen and Rob Wagenborg set out Wagenborg’s ambition in terms of safety in the workplace. Their vision on zero accidents and their wish to immediately implement specific actions and initiatives throughout Wagenborg have been developed into four priorities. One of the most challenging, and the most farreaching, priority is “working with behaviour and embracing

Since then all the subsidiaries have formulated their own objectives in terms of Health, Safety, Environment and Quality (HSEQ) as well as taking specific company-wide actions. This was also the case at Wagenborg Nedlift, where the so-called “Sign of Safety” process has already achieved a lot in the past months. 

The management team of Wagenborg Nedlift - comprising of Ton Klijn (Managing Director), Peter Stollenga (Deputy Director), Murk Lamminga (BU Manager Cranes), Erik Maassen van den Brink (BU Manager Transport), Ad Bakkeren (BU Manager Projects) and Harry Oudman (BU Manager Projects) - explains.... 

What triggered Nedlift to launch the Sign of Safe Solutions process?

Peter: “Safety has been a priority for several years now at Wagenborg Nedlift. We have achieved quite a lot as a result. But we would like to do even better. At the same time, we also want to obtain OHSAS certification. The approach is completely different, compared to VCA: there is less focus on rules and procedures, while safe behaviour and awareness are emphasized more.” Erik: “At some point you hit a plateau with rules. So the logical next step is to focus on behaviour. I think we can achieve much more in terms of HSEQ in the long run by doing this.”

What are you trying to achieve with the Sign of Safe Solutions process?

We want to clearly state that working towards improved safety is not just a commercial gesture, aimed at our customers. Safety in the workplace is something we do first and foremost for ourselves, because we want to prevent accidents! Obviously this is also a priority in the
branches in which we operate. While this will positively influence our image, it is not our primary goal
”, says Ton.

What are the general principles of the programme?

We wanted to focus on changing people’s behaviour and attitude, which is not simple”, Ton continues. “A great distance separates the office from the workfloor. By being on the work floor more frequently, by showing our faces and listening to people, we succeed in launching a dialogue. We value this. The layer between management and the workfloor is especially crucial in this process. Which is why we specifically focused on a dialogue with this layer.

Which actions did you take?

“We searched for ways of improving mutual communication and achieving better contacts. The socalled safety breakfasts were a good example of this. It was an opportunity to openly discuss the importance of safety and the safety experience in an accessible manner. And by placing ourselves in a vulnerable position, we got a lot of valuable feedback, resulting in combining personal goals in a booklet in which we and middle management defined personal safety goals."

So what has Nedlift achieved to date?

According to Peter, “In the past, safety was also a commercial topic within Wagenborg Nedlift. But these days we consider our knowledge and experiences a common good, that we want to share. We want to help our colleagues avoid accidents. That is why we have become the international reference for certain services, such as cargo securing. Our competitors look at how we work. We are gradually going through a change process: we increasingly think of safety in the workplace as an integral part of the job rather than a separate project.”

What do you think are the most important results to date? And why?

The result is that we are all engaged in open discussions about safety, as is the case, for example, during our toolbox meetings. In the past we used to often limit ourselves to an unilateral PowerPoint presentation, but now we have lively group discussions. Everyone is very happy about this development. Our employees are also very involved and they really enjoy it too! There is a general atmosphere of respect and openness!”

If we were to step outside/follow employees for a day, what would we see?

In the past, when our customers visited us, we had to tell our employees to follow the safety regulations. These days this is no longer the case”, says Erik. “We can now take our guests on an unannounced tour of the premises without having to worry. And this also applies to visits on off-site locations. We can clearly see that our employees have the right mindset. And we are quite
proud of this!".

What else do you want to achieve? When will this be “finished”?

Ton: “You never stop working to improve safety. It is a continuous process. We do, however, strive to increase our safety level from 80 to 100!”

What obstacles have you encountered in practice? What is difficult and how do you deal with this?

Harry: “We find ourselves having to continuously juggle safety with the commercial aspect. Sometimes the market will ask us to “leave out” certain safety facilities or minimize the work preparations. It is up to us to weigh whether the risks are acceptable without compromising our employees’ basic safety.”