Setting up a Driver Safety Program – Interview with Balfour Beatty PLC, Part 1

James Burrows of Balfour Beatty PLC was recently interviewed for the Fleet Safety Podcast. This post is the first in  a series of three that will outline some of the key advice and opinion that James provided in the audio interview. You can listen to the  interview here, as well as read the highlights in this series of posts.

Balfour Beatty are a major civil engineering company with over fifty thousand employees worldwide and a commitment to occupational safety through its zero-harm initiative. James worked with DriverMetrics to set up Balfour Beatty’s fleet safety program and in this interview he shares his experience and advice on improving driver safety within Balfour Beatty’s fleet. In this series of posts, he covers a range of topics including driver risk assessment, selecting training interventions including classroom and simulator based training as well as getting senior management buy in to fleet safety programmes.

Neil  – Perhaps you could start by telling us a little about Balfour Beatty in terms of the nature of the business, in general terms.

James – Balfour Beatty group are primarily a construction company moving into all things infrastructure service related, so it’s split down into four core areas and within that it’s almost a federated business model so you have lots of operating companies that retain autonomy and make decisions themselves. Within the business you’ve probably got around about fifty thousand people but that’s been growing quite quickly over the last few years and it will be within the next few as well so it’s quite an aggressive growth plan in the short to medium term.

Neil – It’s an international business model as well as a UK business?

James – It is international. We have a big presence now in America and Australia, we are also working in Chile and quite a lot of work in Germany, but we have recently acquired a business called Parsons Brinckerhoff, an American based business with twelve thousand employees across a whole host of countries, so we now cover the majority of countries across the world.

Neil – Your driver risk management policy is part of the zero-harm strategy that Balfour Beatty has, could you tell me a bit more about zero-harm?

James – Zero-harm was an initiative or a bold-statement that came from our chief executive who basically stood there one day and said that it was no longer acceptable to report fatalities or serious injuries, so he said by 2012 which is fast approaching, we will achieve zero-harm, and what that means to us is we will have zero fatalities, zero serious injuries and zero injuries to the public.

I guess first of all, it was primarily looking at construction related activities and soon after we identified that one of our biggest risks and probably the biggest risk in Balfour Beatty group is actually on the roads and what we face every day, which has kind of come through in leaps and bounds really in terms of the collision results so we’ve been having in excess of three thousand collisions a year which is a big number and we realised we needed to do something about that if we are going to get anywhere near the zero-harm challenge.

Neil – Before you tell me about the risk management process and how you went about implementing it, what sort of drivers do you have; what’s the diversity of your fleet?

James – It ranges vastly really, if we just concentrate on the UK market to start with, we’ve got anyone driving a car to nip to the post-office either in their own vehicle or in a manager’s vehicle, so that would be classed as our grey fleet. We’ve then got about four and a half thousand company cars, a couple of thousand light commercial vehicles and within those you’ve got highly skilled workers, welders, people that dig holes for a living. So you’ve got quite a broad range in there and then you’ve got the heavy goods vehicles which is probably another thousand on top which are very specific so you’ve got the barrier rigs on the motorways and you’ve got some tipper grabs and quite a few specialist vehicles within that and then obviously when you look internationally, we add to that number quite significantly.

Read Part 2