Health and Safety
Top of our priorities is the health and safety of our employees. Our business requires our staff to move heavy and potentially dangerous equipment on a daily basis. They also regularly come into contact with hazardous materials. How we keep our employees safe and limit any impact from those hazardous materials are of prime concern and are intrinsically linked to the long-term sustainability of our business.
Because of this, rigorous safety procedures are essential if we are to minimise potential harm to both our staff and our reputation. A strong reputation for excellent health and safety is a significant competitive advantage for us. In addition, changing legislation in this area and more stringent requirements on everyone involved in the industry, have contributed to the growth in our business in recent years. This is because as health and safety regulations become more onerous across the industry, abiding by them is increasingly more difficult and expensive for both our customers and our smaller rental competitors.
As a result, it often makes better economic sense for customers to outsource more of that health and safety commitment to a specialist equipment rental provider such as Ashtead. Smaller rental companies may also struggle to compete as a result of these increased customer demands. This is one of the factors contributing to the structural shift in the US market. It is for these reasons that health and safety is at the heart of everything we do.
Our extensive health and safety programmes monitor, develop and maintain safe working practices while reminding our employees of the need to be safe at all times and look after their own health. Our continued improvement is accomplished through a combination of proactive safety and leadership training, enhanced safety programmes and timely incident response and investigation. We also help our customers ensure the safety of their own employees including providing safety training as required. In addition, we make a considerable annual investment in ensuring our rental equipment meets or exceeds the latest safety standards, as well as providing health and safety advice and materials along with each rental.
How we track health and safety
On a day-to-day basis, health and safety is tracked across the business by the number of reported incidents that occur during the course of our work. We track and analyse any incidents which occur to enable us to identify recurrent issues and implement preventative improvements across our business. The number of reportable accidents is one of our group-wide KPIs. For the purposes of our internal tracking, the term incident does not necessarily mean that an employee was hurt or injured. Rather it represents an event that we want to track and report for monitoring and learning purposes under our health and safety management policies. There are significant differences in how reportable accidents are defined in the US and UK due to differing legislation in the two countries. For more information on our performance in this area see our annual report.
Health and safety initiatives
Historically, Sunbelt’s safety efforts have focused on reducing or eliminating all incidents, regardless of the potential severity. The thought was that this approach would be the most beneficial in preventing more serious or catastrophic incidents. We recognise that the causes of less severe incidents are often different from the causes of serious or catastrophic events; therefore, we are focusing on events that have the potential to be serious or catastrophic so that we can eliminate or control our exposure to high risk situations.
Less serious events are not always predictive of more serious incidents. By evaluating high-risk situations and eliminating the noise will allow us to focus on the highest risks and implement more effective controls (using a hierarchy that starts with eliminating the exposure and realises that personal protective equipment is the last line of defence between our people and a hazard.)
A cross-functional team was created to develop our standards, tools and processes that will allow us to evaluate our operations and identify the tasks that have the greatest potential to lead to serious injury or event. All part of our mission to prevent serious or catastrophic events.
Health and safety training
Because of the reasons outlined above, our most comprehensive group-wide training programmes relate to health and safety. In our view, regular employee education and awareness training is the most effective way of improving and sustaining safety standards across the business. We have a continual process of educating our employees and customers about new and improved methods of ensuring employees operate in a safe environment.
Our North American transportation fleet continues to operate as one of the safest fleets in the equipment rental industry. Our commercial vehicle training programme is an on-going initiative across the US and Canada, which ensures that all our drivers trained in vehicle safety and compliance. We continue to be among the leaders of our industry in continuously supporting the training and education of employees in commercial vehicle compliance and safety, including core training on hours of service, truck inspections, technology enhancements, load securement and hazardous materials.
In the UK, our driver training courses are aimed at delivery drivers and cover areas such as loading and unloading of vehicles, working at height, site safety and manual handling. All general drivers at A-Plant, including delivery drivers and fitters, are required to undertake the A-Plant Driver Induction Course, which is delivered in the form of workshops and covers transport procedures, legislation, hazard perception and practical driver assessments.
Working with our customers and suppliers
Being a responsible business means sharing and promoting our safety culture with our customers and suppliers whenever possible. We invest significant resources in ensuring our customers use our equipment effectively, efficiently and safely. We regularly conduct special safety focused events and accredited training courses for our customers. We have an on-going programme of specialised customer health and safety briefings on using our equipment range, as well as regular general health and safety awareness-raising initiatives. This helps build and maintain relationships as well as providing that additional level of service that infuses everything we do. The health and safety of our customers is as important as that of our employees. We find that this focus plays an important part in keeping our customers over the long term.
Employee spotlight: Twin Drivers – Charlie and Ed Smith
Charlie and Ed Smith are twin brothers, both of whom started their driving career at Sunbelt over 20 years ago. Charlie and Ed have had exemplary careers and a bit of fun along the way – notably confusing customers and co-workers. Most recently, these twin brothers achieved the significant milestone of driving one million miles (two million collectively) without a single incident or DOT violation. Driving has been a long-time passion for these brothers and one which they bring to work – always pushing and challenging each other to see who can load a truck better or most efficiently in order to get the job done.
Ed attributes his one million mile achievement to his family as they are the driving force that keeps him safe. “Going home to my family, that’s the goal,” says Ed. For Charlie, it’s the pride of doing the job the best he can. “The key to driving is paying attention to your surroundings. Other drivers aren’t looking for you, so you have to look out for them.”