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Biffa employee

Our 5* safety audit rating – how did we do it?

Posted in Health and safety
On 26 Jun 2017
By Claire Odd

At the end of last year, Biffa participated in the British Safety Council Five Star SHE Integrated Audit. The audits are comprised of three main parts: a review of health and safety management documentation; interviews with managers and staff; and site tours and inspections.

In 2016, our fifth consecutive year of participating in the audit, we retained all five stars and received our highest ever rating of 97.59%!

How do we do it?

It’s a hard slog! The audit takes place in November each year, but our process begins early. In February our dedicated team begin reading the assessment guidelines published by the British Safety Council, and conversations begin around which depots and teams are best suited to showcasing our efforts.

We have 19 SHEQ coaches working across our nationwide infrastructure. Each coach works with the depots in their area to evaluate them against the audit syllabus and, if there’s anything that needs to be worked upon, they’ll construct a site improvement plan.

We practice education and communication processes across the business when it comes to health and safety. No matter who the auditor talks to, whether it’s the depot manager, the site chemist, traffic dispatcher or anyone else on site, the commitment to health and safety is obvious.

This year, the audit was directly supported by Ian Wakelin, Biffa’s CEO, and Jeff Anderson, Managing Director of I&C, both of whom were happy to answer the tough questions. Most importantly, each of our teams know that the managing directors support what they do – not just during the audit but for the rest of the year.

Our team spirit is also a leading factor in our success. There’s a friendly rivalry between our SHEQ coaches and their depots (with taunts about who received the least amount of corrective actions!), but beneath it all there’s real camaraderie! The success of our health and safety audit is a direct result of the personal investment and collaboration of Biffa employees.

Why do we do it?

When you consider the time and effort that goes into preparing for each audit, it might seem crazy – why would we put ourselves through months of extra work and added pressure?
The waste management industry is one of the most dangerous and has one of the highest accident rates. With over 7,500 employees across the UK, our commitment to health and safety is therefore paramount. We’ve volunteered ourselves to be audited by the British Safety Council for the past five years (the only waste management company to ever do so!) as a way of validating this commitment.

By setting this challenge for ourselves, we’re raising the stakes not only internally but on an international scale, as the BSC is benchmarked around the world. Allowing somebody else to ask us the difficult questions helps us to highlight our areas for improvement, and we come away from the audit knowing exactly what we need to do to improve.

Most significantly, Biffa employees take a lot of personal pride in this audit. Claire Odd, Biffa’s Group Safety, Health and Quality Manager, has said ‘it is important for us to show that we take safety seriously, and that our records are improving each year, and that our people matter and we want them to be safe and proud to be safe.’

So much hard work goes into ensuring that everyone has the knowledge and equipment they need, that everyone is genuinely thrilled when the results finally come in! Maybe in 2017, our first year as a plc, we’ll raise the stakes even higher and aim for the sword of honour…

About the author

image of Claire Odd

Claire Odd

Claire is Biffa’s Group Safety, Health and Quality Manager, and she loves writing about safety issues across the industry. Outside of work, you’ll find Claire studying for her MBA.