Celebrating ten years of Protect Our People

This year, VolkerHighways’ behavioural change programme, Protect Our People (POP), is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

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POP 10 years.jpg

With health, safety and wellbeing always at the top of VolkerHighways’ agenda, the programme was created back in 2012, to empower our workforce and to help change the way we work to improve safety behaviours in the workplace.

With the support of the POP programme, VolkerHighways continues to achieve high levels of health and safety success. This is evident through our Accident Frequency Rate of zero for 2022, which is well below the industry average, our third President’s Award from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) after achieving 12 consecutive RoSPA Gold Awards and our first Distinction Status at the International Safety Awards by the British Safety Council.

Here are just some of the initiatives implemented during the POP programme over the past ten years:

Training sessions

The programme has supported VolkerHighways’ workforce through numerous campaigns such as ‘Slow Down - Give Yourself Time’ which explored how accidents between cyclists and construction traffic occur and provided practical tips and insights. Other topics have included Making Safety Matter, Make the Right Decision, Risk Perception, Diet and Physical Wellbeing and Keeping the Pieces Together, which provided a strong focus on the importance of mental health.


School initiatives

Over the years, VolkerHighways has been invited to numerous local schools to take part in Road Safety Week, careers weeks and other highway-related initiatives. School children had the opportunity to meet Kerby the Cone, to learn about the importance of road safety and how they can keep themselves and others safe.

Close call reporting

VolkerHighways is always looking for new ways to improve our working practices. We introduced close call reporting where our employees can report any concerns before they escalate and potentially cause harm. Between 2011 and 2022, our close call frequency rate has considerably increased to 206.21, showing that concerns are being reported and resolved before they escalate which demonstrates that our operatives are engaging and being proactive.

Mock trial event and awards scheme

In 2015, VolkerHighways undertook a mock trial event highlighting the importance of managing and documenting health and safety processes correctly and developing a greater understanding of the processes involved in legal proceedings and court actions. That year, we also launched Monthly Safety Awards encouraging colleagues to nominate those who have demonstrated a commitment to improving health and safety in the work environment. This awards scheme is still running today, but is now known as Quarterly Awards, and recognises the contributions of all our employees towards the overall performance of the business.

Other initiatives

Other recent initiatives have included ‘you said, we did’ boards, ‘Reflect-Review-Reset’ sessions encouraging individuals to think about their actions on several key topics and ‘boots on before you log on’ campaign which involved ensuring that managers and supervisors are present on site. The formation of a Service Avoidance Group has enabled the creation of guidance materials to provide best practice for those working with underground utilities. Other recent guidance materials include a service avoidance wheel and best practice prompt card which have been translated into Romanian.

Plans for 2022 and beyond

To celebrate the tenth year of POP, and as the company continues to grow, VolkerHighways has dedicated 2022 to refresh and reinvigorate the campaign with the overarching theme of ‘creating a safe working environment for our workforce and public’. This includes the recruitment of over 30 new Protect Our People champions, to prompt discussion around changing behaviours on site. We will continue to encourage mental health advocates to become champions who are trained and supported by Mental Health England to listen with care to employee’s individual issues in confidence. We will also work towards hitting our goals highlighted in our People-Planet-Purpose framework to achieve our vision of being a sustainable and innovative provider of choice for highways and infrastructure services.

Alistair Thompson, managing director for VolkerHighways, said: “Improving the safety in highway construction and maintenance is critical to all our employees and our stakeholders. A key element of this is changing the safety behaviours, welfare and health in all parts of our business. Over the last ten years our Protect our People programme has played a vital role, through our safety leadership team and champions in improving our safety culture across the business. This programme is constantly evolving to make our contracts a safe place to work which all our employees should expect and deserve.”  

Jason Convey, head of HSEQS for VolkerHighways, said: “With health, safety and wellbeing never standing still, Protect Our People is always evolving. Our people are at the heart of what we do, and we will continue to support our people to create a happy and productive workforce. We strive ourselves on keeping the programme fresh and in line with external influences and are looking forward to the years ahead as we further develop POP.”