At EPC-UK we prioritise safety above everything else: the safety of our employees, our customers, and surrounding environment. To help secure our outstanding safety record, we also place considerable worth on our operating values of employee respect and integrity, which together build and strengthen trust within the team. As part of our ongoing drive to support our safety standard precedence and equip our employees with the confidence to speak out about any unsafe act or condition without pressure or reprisal, we introduced our STOP WORK AUTHORITY CARD concept in 2017.
In 2021, this policy and idea conceived by our Managing Director, Ben Williams, was revised and relaunched. To empower employees Ben has issued a credit card sized “STOP WORK AUTHORITY CARD”, which is signed by Ben himself, giving employees his unquestioned endorsement to step forward and ‘stop work’ at any time should they feel that operating conditions are not safe.
Every person within our 220 strong team carries a card, and managers have the same right as any other employee to action the initiative: from our Drivers, Shotfirers and Plant Operators, to the members of our office-based team. So far during 2021, the cards have been used a total of six times across our business operations, potentially preventing a work-related incident from occurring.
The initiative’s ongoing success is supported by EPC-UK’s Safety Ambassadors who are led by Learning and Development Co-ordinator, Keith Ward. He explains more about why the cards were introduced, how they work in practice, and starts with the place they hold in terms of our company’s wider SPIRIT values:
“At EPC-UK we are recognised for working to a core set of ideals which encompass Safety, Passion, Integrity, Respect, Innovation & Teamwork,” Keith says. “A tool that represents that SPIRIT ethos in action, the STOP WORK AUTHORITY CARD initiative is a true illustration of our commitment to the company’s values. The card’s objective supports all elements of the ethos, demonstrating that at EPC-UK we work just as a family would; helping, trusting and respecting one another, so we can assure the entire group’s safety.
“We all take safety very seriously and making it our first and foremost priority has become part of who we are as a company.
“By doing so we’re providing employees, customers and suppliers with the confidence to trust us as individuals, as well as a business, affirming the extent to which we care about the people involved in our industry.”
How the initiative works
“When an employee enacts their STOP WORK AUTHORITY CARD, they have automatic and unquestioned permission to stop what they are doing and ask others to stop any work they may be performing if they feel it’s appropriate to do so. This normally follows where a risk assessment has been carried out and work conditions may have changed.
“The employee’s line manager, supervisor and in some cases customer or supplier (contractor) will then be informed, so the safety concern can be assessed collaboratively with a 360-degree focus. In the case where a third party is involved, EPC-UK and the customer/supplier/contractor will then look to correct the issue that’s been raised, ensure conditions are safe and that work can continue. Work will not resume until any issue is fully rectified and all parties involved are completely reassured of the situation’s safety. Any event information is also collected and used to cross reference against operations at other sites or locations in case corrections or changes to wider working practices are subsequently required.
“We believe that instigating the STOP WORK AUTHORITY CARD programme not only demonstrates a professional and multi-level improvement approach to Health and Safety, but also allows and encourages employees to flag any unsafe acts or conditions. We appreciate that not everyone feels self-assured enough to speak out about concerns, so the physical act of being able to produce and hold out a card instantly equips any individual with the backing of the entire company to do what they feel is right at the time.
“Following any event where a card has been shown, the individuals involved meet with one of our company’s Safety Ambassadors for a ‘Safety Chat’. This presents the opportunity for the leadership team to ensure employees affected by an event are happy with how the safety check process has been handled and offers a chance for them to voice any concerns they may have.”
Showing the card – securing the safety
“A potential incident that was successfully avoided as a result of the card’s use was cited at a quarry in the Midlands recently.
“Here, an operator was preparing to examine a shot with a shotfirer prior to driving the Multiblend vehicle down onto it. Following a period of heavy rain, the operator felt concerned about the condition of the road and the shot area, so showed his STOP WORK AUTHORITY CARD and advised the shotfirer that he was not prepared to attempt driving the vehicle onto the area in case the truck became damaged or stuck. Responding to his concern, the quarry’s staff attempted to scrape the road to improve vehicle access, however this wasn’t felt to be an effective enough measure. The operator rang for advice, and we agreed that if there was any risk of personal injury or equipment damage, he should not proceed. His decision to use the STOP WORK AUTHORITY CARD received the full support of the customer, and Ben Williams, who commended him for taking the most appropriate action.”
Results built on trust, respect & integrity
“The STOP WORK AUTHORITY CARD programme is a clear demonstration of how leadership can empower us all, with the authority of the Managing Director and a clear instruction that if we feel something is not right – STOP. I have spoken with other businesses in my role at EPC-UK and other companies have asked me about the programme’s effectiveness. My response has been unequivocable: Our STOP WORK AUTHORITY CARD concept is simple, and highly effective. It only works with clear leadership support and, most importantly, leadership trust to stop work if it’s not safe. Our programme avoids the blame game, with the card’s presence there to back any individual up, providing confidence and, vitally, a route to remaining safe at all times.”