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Breaking the 0.1 lost time injury frequency rate plateau

Karl Simons, Chief Health, Safety & Wellbeing Officer at Thames Water, talks to SHP about the work that has gone in to achieving a LTIFR of 0.09 for the first month of 2021.

What is the lost time injury frequency rate plateau?

As any health and safety professional or leader should know the daily prevention of harm is the ultimate goal. This is never more true than in organisations working in safety critical industries. By this I mean sectors such as rail, construction, oil, gas, minerals, utilities, etc…most of which I have spent time in. By far the greatest challenge in these sectors, in a mature reporting culture such as the UK, is breaking the 0.1 LTIFR plateau when measuring time off for all those working for and on their behalf, that’s both employees and contractors, unable to return to work after a workplace injury. For those not familiar this is the annual total volume of Lost Time Injuries (LTIs) multiplied by 100,000 divided by the total hours worked. Then you will need to turn this into a rolling frequency rate so will need 24 months of data.

Is it a target?

This is something I and those working closely alongside me over so many years have had our sites firmly set on and is more of a milestone as opposed to target, but an incredibly challenging milestone for a company to achieve. As an organisation with over 7,000 sites and turnover of £2bn per annum, our daily challenges at Thames Water are extraordinary and relentless, so I am delighted that last month we have collectively achieved this incredible milestone with a LTIFR of 0.09.

How has it been achieved?

Having been at Thames for eight years, I have watched my dedicated and amazing safety and health team have work tirelessly to develop, introduce and embed waves of initiatives that have supported our workforce in the creation of our culture of care. It’s been an incredible journey thus far for us steering leadership, supporting competency up-skilling, creating opportunities for engagement and relentlessly communicating in both safety and health standards and expectations to create a safer and healthier workplace for all.

How have contractors been affected?

At Thames Water two thirds of our work is undertaken by our supply chain partners, so working closely with them is crucial to attaining successes in safety and health management. We have developed a framework which provides clear lines of direct engagement with 112 organisational leaders involved affecting our total 4,500 supply chain companies on our books. At the helm of this engagement framework is our Health & Safety Leadership Team which consists of 15 Operational Directors from our major Tier 1 contracting partners who give their time every month to meet with me and have played an instrumental part in our success. Together this group have have worked to create an environment of openness, collaboration and trust which enables sharing to be on a level without fear of reprisal. This transparency has promoted mature learning, focussed engagement and enabled the development of our suite of Essential Standards which are contractual obligations across all our supply chain and steer expectations, which go well beyond the statutory requirements.

Is this a Key Performance Indicator?

It’s been a topical discussion in the health and safety profession over the years about what should be measured in regards to both leading and lagging indicators. Although never an exact science my personal view is to always concentrate almost all your effort on the leading indicators and generate initiatives that affect these. The lagging then simply become a byproduct that can be learned from. When it comes to the lagging side most organisations in these sectors measure a series of injury rates including the RIDDOR Frequency rate (AFR) or total injury rate. My personal view is many of these can be misleading and easily manipulated, for example often people feel a sense of duty to push themselves back to work early to avoid something becoming notifiable to the Regulator or on the other end of the scale minor injuries such as cuts and scrapes may be considered just scratch’s and not be reported in some of our harder engineering sectors such as construction. So concentrating on the LTIs will give you the best chance of getting an accurate picture as if someone is unable to come into work following a workplace injury you’ll likely know about it straight away.

What’s next?

Over the years I and my team have constantly strived to share the steps we have taken so others can benefit and this is something we are extremely proud of. As a pure optimist I continually look to the future with excitement as the Health & Safety profession continues to increase in profile and visibility within organisations as a result of its effort in protecting all those in work.

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