Safety First at Clayton Glass
This week we caught up with Clayton Glass’ new military-trained Health & Safety Manager, John Costello. When it comes to Health and Safety, John is meticulous, determined and uncompromising in equal measure. In his own words, John tells us about the challenges and pitfalls of Health and Safety in a large-scale manufacturer such as Clayton Glass, and how he will always apply a safety-first mentality in all areas of life.
The term ‘the Clayton difference’ will be one you may be familiar with if you follow us on social media. The Clayton difference is the Clayton Glass company ethos of combining the care and attention associated with a small business, with the manufacturing muscle of one of the UK’s largest manufacturers. However, this care and attention is not solely focused on our customers…
There is not one thing more important to us at Clayton Glass than the safety of our employees. When working in a large-scale manufacturing business of this ilk, with plentiful large, heavy, moving machinery, and a material as unpredictable and sometimes unagreeable as glass, you can see that the health and safety ruling must be nothing short of air-tight. With Clayton Glass recently making the transition from a medium-sized business, to one that is very much large scale, operating across four state-of-the-art glass factories across the UK, added expertise in the Health and Safety department was essential. This is where John steps in.
If you get the interest and the mindset of the people you are there to implement health and safety policy with, you get a better understanding of what they need. If you understand what they need, you can then feed that back up through the chain of command, to make sure everybody’s aware of what’s going on.John Costello
A Safe Pair of Hands
John Costello has been Health and Safety Manager at Clayton Glass for six months. Possibly the most exciting, but transitional six-month period in Clayton Glass history. At a time when workloads have been high, room for error has been low, and a calm, experienced presence in the Health and Safety department has been a must. “Everything I’ve been doing for the last 30 years has been orchestrated around Health and Safety.” Says John. “Yes, I’ve been involved with Health and Safety since my time in the Army.”
John joined the army as a foot soldier in the light infantry, where Health and Safety regulations are treated as a matter of life and death, for 25 years of John’s life, he was following Health and Safety rules daily. “I was promoted to corporal at 20 years of age, one of the six youngest in the division. At this point I was at a crossroads, I had to decide whether to continue on the frontline, or to specialise, I specialised as a subject matter expert in physical training.” Says John.
It is this discipline, John believes, that allows him to be successful in the role of Clayton Glass’ Health and Safety Manager, and what a success it’s been. In the aforementioned six-month period, the number of injuries sustained by employees has reduced month on month. Meanwhile, near miss reports have increased. Showing, not that there are more near misses necessarily, but that near miss reportings are up. Therefore, contributing greatly to the safety of our employees in the future. John has inspired an atmosphere of responsibility among the workforce when it comes to Health and Safety.
Throughout the interview, John shows flashes of his military past as he frequently refers to the Clayton Glass factory floor workers as the ‘frontline’. He is not wrong to suggest the two are comparable of course, the frontline is visceral, hands-on, and while it may not be at all be the same as being a part of the frontline infantry, the Clayton Glass factory floor is where the action is. It is also the beating heart of our business.
Keeping this idea in mind, John explains the traits necessary in his line of work. “Somebody with a common-sense-first approach is vital.” Says John. “This individual needs to be able to communicate effectively, and I mean that in the real sense of the word, speaking AND listening to learn.” John goes on to explain that the people he needs to communicate with the most, are the people on the frontline. Explaining that these people need to be in mind when you, the Health and Safety worker, make a decision. However, the purpose of this frequent communication is not limited to simply learning where potential risks may lie, it is also about building relationships and respect, so that John can be safe in the knowledge that if there is a near miss, it will be reported.
I think everybody’s mindset should be to be safe in life. You cannot trim your hedges wearing shorts and flip flops.John Costello
Health and Safety From an Office? Ineffective.
“It is pointless running health and safety from an office. Just pushing out text for the sake of it.” Says John. “You need to understand what’s happening on the frontline, to be able to then effectively implement policy”. John points out that running Health and Safety from the confines of an office is ineffective. Firstly, because policies are more likely to be irrelevant or non-specific, symptomatic of the Health and Safety workers limited frontline experience. Secondly, because workers are less likely to engage with new policies from someone they hardly know.
John tells me: “If you get the interest and the mindset of the people you are there to implement health and safety policy with, you get a better understanding of what they need.” John continues “If you understand what they need, you can then feed that back up through the chain of command, to make sure everybody’s aware of what’s going on.”
A Safety-First Mindset
“I think everybody’s mindset should be to be safe in life.” States John. “You cannot trim your hedges wearing shorts and flip flops”. John explains that for some people the mindset can be more “There’s nobody watching” meaning that it is more common for people to act unsafely when they are on their own. “Just because you’re not at work does not mean that safety shouldn’t be at the forefront of your mind in a given situation.”
“We run a humongous manufacturing facility with hundreds of people. Thousands of kilograms worth of glass. Huge, potentially dangerous machinery. But there’s probably more accidents happening in the equivalent number of households, because the mindset changes.”
Conclusion: It’s Better to be Safe than Sorry
In conclusion, it can be seen that not only is John Costello’s no-nonsense, joint-responsibility mode of operating having a dramatic effect on Clayton Glass today. It is also setting the standards for the Clayton Glass of tomorrow. With near-miss reporting at an all-time high, and injuries at an all-time low. When it comes to Health and Safety, Clayton Glass is in safe hands.
NB: If you take away one thing from ‘Safety First at Clayton Glass’ let it be John’s advice on implementing Health and Safety at home. That is to employ a safety-first mindset in life, no matter what it is that you are taking on. Thank you for reading!
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