Earlier this year, EPC-UK’s Head of Safety, Health, Environment and Quality, Bob Woolley, spoke to Onsite to give his experienced view on how safety culture has evolved during his 23-year career with EPC-UK, citing as a particular triumph, the introduction of our visionary STOP WORK AUTHORITY CARD initiative and the effect it has had on our employees, customers, and values.

Joining the Onsite editorial team once again, Bob updates us on the initiative’s successes this year to date and how its power to provide confidence is benefiting the EPC-UK culture and SPIRIT values for the good. 

The concept behind the card

First introduced in 2017, the STOP WORK AUTHORITY CARD initiative was a practical device created to expand upon EPC-UK’s outstanding safety record. Wishing to develop employees’ confidences but appreciating that not everyone feels self-assured enough to speak out about concerns, our Managing Director, Ben Williams wanted to create an initiative where employees would have his unquestioned endorsement to stop any unsafe act or condition witnessed, without pressure or reprisal. In order to action the initiative without the need to make a verbal objection in front of team members, the physical act of being able to produce and hold out a card was introduced as part of the scheme – a card that would instantly equip any individual with Ben’s backing to instruct that operations stop, with immediate effect. 

Every person within EPC-UK’s team of employees carries a card, and managers have the same right as anyone else to action the initiative: from our Drivers, Shotfirers and Plant Operators, to the members of our office-based team. During 2021, the cards were used a total of six times across our business operations, potentially preventing a work-related incident from occurring. Now halfway through 2022, Bob reports that cards have been shown five times across various divisions, keenly demonstrating the increasing confidence employees are showing in implementing the policy with the encouragement to do what they feel is right at the time. 

“Employee engagement with the STOP WORK AUTHORITY CARD initiative is proving to be a tremendous success across multiple levels, and increasingly, throughout different sectors of our business,” Bob explains. “The marked improvements in our safety culture that have occurred since Ben took the reins at EPC-UK have been significant and continue to improve year-on-year. Our definitive move away from command-and-control processes, toward a collaborative culture where operations are performed more effectively as colleagues, has been truly evident.”

 

Use of the STOP WORK AUTHORITY CARD in 2022

Work was stopped when equipment weighing in excess of 100kg had to be manually carried up two flights of stairs. With no alternative method available at the time, the STOP WORK AUTHORITY CARD policy was activated.

1. Overnight rain had made access to the blast site unsafe for the Multiblend Truck. The STOP WORK AUTHORITY CARD policy was activated, and the shot postponed until the access was improved.

2. Work was stopped when it became clear that the proposed method for unloading a shipping container was unsafe. The materials were taken off site and were later returned on a suitable vehicle.

3. Two laboratory technicians used the STOP WORK AUTHORITY CARD policy when it became clear that a suitable method of work was not in place for sampling acetic acid. 

4. The STOP WORK AUTHORITY CARD policy was used when it became clear that the vehicle selected to store explosives on the vehicle compound at one of our sites could not be locked and there were no other suitable vehicles available.

SPIRIT values

The CARD is an effective illustration that perfectly reflects our SPIRIT values of Safety, Passion, Integrity, Respect, Innovation and Teamwork in action and has helped to develop our working culture from one where managerial trust was considered implicit, to one where it’s confirmed as explicit. 

Reflecting the Dupont© Bradley Curve© 

As such, our safety culture is progressing from revolving around individuals responding to their own reactive instincts, to driving towards the aspirational goal of becoming interdependent. Acknowledging the steps of being Dependent and Interdependent en-route, as the Dupont© Bradley Curve© illustrates, the CARD’s initiative physically proves the trust and integrity that forms part of the evolving working culture at EPC-UK, and the success of our SPIRIT values. 

Reactive

– Safety by natural instinct

– Compliance in the goal

– Delegated to safety manager

– Lack of management involvement

Dependent

– Management commitment

– Condition of employment

– Fear/Discipline

– Rules/Procedures

– Supervisor control

– Emphasis & goal

– Value all people

– Training

Independent

– Personal knowledge, commitment & standards

– Internalisation

– Personal value

– Care for self

– Practice & habits

– Individual recognition

Interdependent

– Help others to conform

– Being brother’s keeper

– Networking contributor

– Care for others

– Organisational pride

Demonstrating trust

“By showing employees that they have the Managing Director’s trust and support to act on their own individual instincts,” Bob continues, “we have set a standard in heightening safety and, consequently, limited the potential for accident occurrence.”

Encouraging confidence

“It’s by encouraging members of our team to express themselves and have the confidence to raise concerns regarding safety without fear of retribution that we can together make this aspirational manoeuvre towards an interdependent safety culture possible. As a company, we’re enabling ‘Psychological Safety’ to thrive, with the increase in physical card presentations showing that employees have the confidence to speak up, rather than remain silent.  Their supported actions are serving to create a more trustful working culture that’s setting the industry standard in terms of safety.”

Trusting in our future

The safety initiative has had comprehensive approval from customers whose sites are supported by EPC-UK operatives. Furthermore, as we continue to see the successes of our scheme across the business, we’re looking at ways to introduce the concept on an international scale through an EPC Groupe STOP WORK AUTHORITY CARD programme, so each person on every EPC site across the world can have the confidence to ensure everyone goes home safely.”