On an average working day, some 500 people are working on the construction site of the large sea lock in IJmuiden. This means that many activities take place in a relatively small area. Jutta Leibfried is safety manager at OpenIJ and, together with her safety team, is committed to the safety of all workers on the construction site.
‘The aim of our team of safety experts is to ensure that every worker can go home healthy after each day's work,' Leibfried explained. ‘That seems quite obvious, but it is not. Ensuring safety requires everyone's attention and input. Safety is created together.’
Checks during every project phase
The safety team is involved in every phase of the project – from design to completion. 'Every plan should be sent to us first,’ Leibfried added. ‘We check the plans against various integral safety themes, such as safety at work. Last week we received working instructions for coating a combi wall. Our conclusion was that too little attention had been paid to health aspects. For example, it had not been made sufficiently clear what personal protective equipment workers who had to apply the coating had to wear. We gave this as feedback to the planning team and they sent us a new plan with new working instructions, this time with the complete information. In addition to these checks, our team members also go to the construction site themselves to check if the work is being carried out as agreed.’
Ensuring safety is not just a matter of drawing up protocols. ‘The culture is crucial,' Leibfried explained. ‘Everyone is aware of the importance of safety; we really have a safety culture. The Operational Safety Experts Team is on-site to discuss safety issues together with the workers and to identify points for improvement. They give compliments where it is deserved, but they also do not hesitate to call workers to account if they do not comply with the agreements. If an incident occurs, we will call a Safety Time-Out. During the Safety Time-Out, we evaluate together what went wrong and discuss how to prevent this from happening again. This means that we not only implement top-down improvements, but also receive suggestions and ideas for improvements from the work floor. After all, the workers on the construction site are professionals and can make a valuable contribution and positively influence the safety culture. This is why a number of construction site workers take part in the Ambassadors for Safety Group. This is yet another way in which we our team is linked to the construction site. We are also working on a common safety culture with Rijkswaterstaat and that is why a Safety Coach has been appointed. The Safety Coach works for both OpenIJ and for Rijkswaterstaat and helps us to build bridges between the two organisations in order to achieve a higher level of safety together.’
The Dutch National Construction Safety Day was on 20 March 2019. On that day, OpenIJ organised a Safety Day for all workers in the form of a game. ‘Of course, this is not so much about the game, but about a discussion about safety that workers have with each other,' explained Leibfried. ‘The theme was "Creating a culture in which others can be called to account". This fits in well with our efforts in relation to the safety culture. There are people of many different nationalities working at OpenIJ, so the game was translated from Dutch into five other languages. We were not able do this job alone, of course, and that is why the largest subcontractors were given an active role in this. They also provided us with workers to hold the sessions in the various native languages of the construction site workers. Several interviews with construction site workers held after the Safety Day showed that this was particularly appreciated.’
The Director General of the Dutch Social Affairs and Employment Inspectorate (SZW) together with inspectors and representatives of the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management (RWS) visited the construction site unannounced last summer. The SZW Inspectorate was very impressed with our safety policy,' Leibfried pointed out. ‘The Inspectorate even called the Zeetoegang IJmond Project an example project. We are extremely proud of that, of course. But we cannot afford to sit back and lose focus. Safety cannot be compromised. We must always remain alert, because accidents will happen.