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In 2013 the UK’s largest water supplier, Thames Water, made forward-thinking decisions about health and safety competence within its organisation. Traditionally, health and safety was almost exclusively the domain of the health and safety team and knowledge and expertise was retained in that department.

The organisation’s approach is now completely different. The health and safety team has a more strategic role and frontline operational managers are empowered to make day to day health and safety decisions. So how has Thames Water achieved this step change and what impact has it had on the business?

Karl Simons, Thames Water’s Chief Health, Safety & Security Officer explained why the organisation chose NEBOSH: “The Executive Team wanted our managers to have the best we could provide in terms of knowledge and understanding of health and safety. After extensive research we opted for the NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety because we felt it offered an industry leading approach to competence management.”Not only did Thames Water specify the NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety as its desired management-level qualification, it also became accredited to deliver the course in-house too. It’s Managing Director demonstrated his support by being one of the first to take and pass the qualification, and a flood of managers then applied to do the same.

“We began running the course every single month, and had at least 12 people on each. Demand exceeded all expectations and we ended up delivering around 18 courses in the first year, achieving an overall 94% pass rate. Over 500 managers have been through the programme and it’s made a significant difference.”

Karl Simons, continued: “What has happened here as a result of upskilling frontline managers is extremely powerful. It has significantly contributed to Thames Water’s achieving a 60% reduction in injuries, illness and high potential incidents leading to loss over a four year period”

The qualification now features on Thames Water’s graduate programme and contractors have also been given the opportunity to participate. Karl explained: “We have a capital framework alliance which includes many large contractor organisations, and I am delighted to have seen more and more of their representatives attending the course.”

Karl added: “Overall, it is clear that the programme has led to significant cultural change across the entire organisation. As a consequence of this investment, health and safety is now an enabler of work.”

The benefits Thames Water has gained as a result of the programme include productivity improvements, reduced costs and protection from legal action and fines. However, Karl prefers to emphasize the moral benefits above all others: “We are saving lives as a result of this change in approach to training and health and safety culture. It’s that simple”

To find out more about the NEBOSH General Certificate and how it could help your organisation, visit www.nebosh.org.uk/ngc