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Insights Meet Gloria who believes safety is a culture, not statistics

Meet Gloria Lui 
Image of Gloria in safety clothing
Gloria is part of the Atkins team providing PMC/RSS services to the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA). She works as a Resident Engineer responsible for supervising the contractors’ safety and environment management on the West Kowloon Cultural District (the District) project sites which contains two iconic buildings, M+ and the Lyric Theatre Complex. M+ is a museum dedicated to collecting, exhibiting, and interpreting visual art, design and architecture, moving image, and Hong Kong visual culture of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The Lyric Theatre Complex is a centre of excellence showcasing the best of Hong Kong and international dance and theatre. 

The project has a deep-rooted safety culture and an impressive safety record that are the foundation for the successful delivery of the iconic buildings. We spent five minutes with Gloria to learn more about how the safety culture was embedded and why it is important for the project. 

Safety is a culture, not statistics 

The client, WKCDA, has set a stringent safety performance target which is much higher than the statutory requirement in Hong Kong for all projects. The safety performance target is measured through the cumulative accident frequency rate (AFR). I’m proud to say that to date, the AFR for both projects, M+ and the Lyric Theatre Complex, is well below the target. 

But safety is more than just the statistics. I believe that behaving safely should not be a challenge. All we really want for workers is that they behave at work in the same way they do on weekends when out and about with their spouse and kids. 

Our team spirit is “Safety is Everybody’s Responsibility”. The right culture is necessary to make safety systems work, hence, we demonstrate our safety leadership visibly, to let everyone know safety and health are always our top priorities. We never compromise on safety in any way.

For real risk controls, we identify and assess the critical and major risks on both projects, making use of the Hierarchy of Controls to mitigate the identified critical risks and hazards, by elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls and personal protective equipment as a last resort.

The top five risks are identified each month on both the M+ and Lyric Theatre Complex projects by RSS safety team. Jointly planned inspections and audits with the main contractors and sub-contractors to focus on the risks are carried out to prevent the potential risks identified. 

We focus on four key aspects to build a safety culture for our projects, including learning culture, report culture, risk assessment and planning culture, and caring culture. We apply these safety and health cultures to ensure we all work in a safe and healthy environment. 

  • Learning culture – RSS safety department is responsible to arrange review meetings on accident or incident and specific training for regular reviews; share newsletters, safety alerts, safety posters and case studies from government departments, our projects and other projects with staff and workers as lessons learnt; study and analysis of cases to ensure continuous improvement, better planning and design to the work tasks to avoid similar recurrence in future.
  • Report culture – reporting is one of the most important foundations for RSS management, and cover-up is not a choice for our projects. Everyone is encouraged and supported in reporting hazards, near misses, incidents and dangerous occurrence. We communicate between levels on accident/incident reporting, investigation, follow up actions and finding the root causes, the reporting procedure is fully supported and promoted by the senior project management team.
  • Risk assessment and planning culture – RSS participate in risk assessments and safety designs prior to exposure to hazards. Hazards identification and risk evaluation are important in the planning stage of works. 
  • Caring culture – we want all workers to feel comfortable and well cared for at work. RSS and the contractors work as one team and we encourage the participation on safety and health discussion at all levels. We build an environment of trust where staff and workers can feel free to execute their rights to refuse from working  in unsafe situations. In such cases, RSS and contractor safety departments will coordinate the communication between the frontline staff and the management to seek a solution to the problem

Empowerment is also a key. In case RSS observes any unsafe behaviour or working environment, we are empowered to stop the works immediately. We care about everybody and we build up the trust between frontline and site staff. Safety is not an obstacle but a tool to lead to fewer incidents as everyone is aligned to a common goal of zero harm. To give you an idea of the outcome of our work, we have encouraged the contractor to temporarily stop work locally on 11 occasions during the month of August 2020 until the risk of potential hazards was cleared.

Cultivating a safety culture together

We embrace the innovations on health, safety and environment, and the ethos of “Safety is Everyone’s Responsibility”. The senior management team motivates our staff and workers to brainstorm for new ideas. The safety team coaches new joiners, takes lead on safety inspections, training, safety and environmental audit/reviews. We keep the spirit up and gradually make safety a habit. 

Next step is aligning the mindset of the frontline staff to adopt the safety culture and implement the plans we developed. RSS keeps monitoring and reviewing the plans, in order to improve the details to be practical and achieve safety harmony. 
image of a man in safety clothing
Recently, we have one example on the Lyric Theatre Complex project site which reflects cultivation of safety culture. The senior management team set a target to improve eye protection to minimize the number of first-aid cases. The RSS and contractor brainstormed to raise worker’s awareness to wear eye protection equipment. Innovation came to play where we replaced old-style safety goggles with a new type of safety helmet with visors because workers always “forget” to bring safety goggles. The new safety helmets with built-in visors made eye protection easier and more convenient. The contractor was very supportive and executed the plan by purchasing this new type of safety helmets. This resulted in a reduction in the number of first-aid cases on eye injuries. Workers make use of the visors on the safety helmets every day as a normal practice and are happy to have a more convenient way for improving their own safety. Safety culture on eye protection has been enhanced accordingly. 

Safety always takes priority no matter what

Unfortunately, there is a perception that the safety team is a supporting team in a project and may not help save project costs. In some other projects, people may compromise safety due to rapid progress, cut corners to get the job done. From my perspective, this concept is absolutely wrong. 

For the M+ and Lyric Theatre Complex projects, when safety vs production is a consideration, the solid message is delivered from all levels of management that safety always takes priority no matter what. What I have learned, it is important that senior management drives safety and pushes safety initiatives to create a solid safety culture. 

I trust my senior management because they follow up on their commitments, they don’t just say “safety is our top priority” as a slogan but they do mean it. Safety always comes first on the agenda of any internal or external meetings. When an accident happens, our Principal and Senior Resident Engineers always proactively join the RSS safety team to investigate the case with the contractor, attend the review meetings for corrective and improvement discussion. Client’s senior management attends safety training to frontline staff and we keep reviewing the follow-up actions afterwards. 

I am proud to share that team spirit, safety culture and the support and empowerment from the senior management are essential. We all look out for each other here and anyone can challenge unsafe behaviours, and we brainstorm for a better solution when we see any safety issue. We never blame and we never compromise. We all work as one team to achieve the ultimate goal: coming to work and going home safely.