Leeds School of Social Sciences | Blog

Health and safety– applied research in action

In this blog post, Dr Jim Morgan – Head of the Psychology Applied to Safety and Health (PASH) research group at Leeds Beckett – shares the successes of the team’s two recent Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, which have seen significant reductions in injuries and substantial cost savings for both Amey and VolkerRail – and looks ahead to new and future industry collaborations.

Health and safety applied research in action

Central to our Psychology Applied to Safety and Health (PASH) research group is the consultancy and applied research projects that we work on with organisations across a wide variety of industries and settings.

The majority of our work is carried out by myself and Dr Matteo Curcuruto – together we have a combined total of 25 years’ experience of delivering applied research projects. We have worked with clients from NHS 111 to Eurostar UK Ltd and BASF.

There are many benefits that we can bring, as a university, to our consultancy partners. We can bring together a bespoke team of academic experts from across a wide range of university disciplines – and we also have access to external funding sources available to universities to support business growth and innovation.

One example is our Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) programme – these projects run for up to three years and are part-funded by Innovate UK. We work with an organisation to transfer our academic knowledge and expertise into a new initiative or challenge. To do this, we recruit a highly skilled graduate to work full-time within the business to deliver the project, supported by our academic team.

We have recently completed two KTPS –with Amey - and VolkerRail.

 

Long shot of Dr Jim Morgan

Amey

Amey is a multi-national supplier of consulting and infrastructure support services – including maintenance of the UK’s roads and rail infrastructure.

In this project, we developed, implemented and embedded a structured Behavioural Safety Strategy within the organisation - with the aim of reducing safety incidents across Amey's rail business and supply chain, and making cost reductions.

A key aim of the KTP was for Amey to set in place the tools needed to achieve their ‘Target Zero’ objective of zero ‘lost time injuries’ by 2021.

Led by our research associate Rajkiran Kandola, we worked with Amey to develop an industry leading SafetySmart ThinkSafe toolkit. The toolkit gives safety managers access to academic safety research knowledge and allows them to collect psychological and behavioural metrics proactively at regular set intervals (to monitor risk) and also at safety trigger points (e.g. when an accident occurs). This video explains more about the project.

The results – significant reduction in injuries and financial savings


Raj Kandola

VolkerRail

VolkerRail is a specialist railway infrastructure services company serving the UK and Ireland. As with Amey, our KTP aimed to research, better understand and improve safety behaviours and wellbeing across the company.

Our research – led by our research associate Michael Steer - informed the development of the ‘YourAIM’ risk management programme, which focuses on behaviour change, a new safety conversation framework and the intelligent use of psychological metrics. 

VolkerRail highlighted three specific safety behaviors as being high risk within the organisation. Using feedback from their workers, we were able to identify distinct enablers and barriers for each specific high risk behaviour and therefore provide worker driven data to aid the development of tailored behavioral interventions.

Within both companies, there are many safety critical operations taking place every day - with considerable risks for the health and safety of employees. 

Our research directly involved frontline workers from the outset and at every stage. We aimed to foster better safety-related communication, to enhance trust in safety management, and improve safety culture more generally, across both organisations.

The results – significant reduction in injuries and financial savings

The impact of the projects has been substantial for both companies.

Both companies have now embedded evidence-based behavioural safety protocols to monitor safety-critical workflows and to analyse incidents to improve safety further.

These new systems have resulted in a significant reduction in staff injuries - a 33% reduction in lost time injuries for Amey; and a zero accident frequency rate for VolkerRail – as well as substantial financial savings.

Amey estimates that - as a result of SafetySmart – their annual turnover will increase by £1,350,000 in the three years following the completion of the project in 2019.

And VolkerRail estimates that - as a result of YourAIM – their annual turnover has increased by £250,000, and a further £1,000,000 in the three years following the completion of the project in 2018.

Recognition across the industry

SafetySmart was a major component of Amey’s submission to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) Awards - leading to the achievement of Gold award status. And in September 2020, the ThinkSafe project was also awarded the RoSPA Initiative of the Year Award.

In March 2019, the Amey KTP was awarded the highest rating of ‘Outstanding’ by independent Innovate UK assessors – and the VolkerRail KTP received the second highest rating of ‘Very Good’.

Amey have committed to grow the SafetySmart initiative.  ThinkSafe has now been rolled out to over 1,000 employees across the business and is currently being trialled in other areas, including Amey’s Secure Infrastructure business. And our Research Associate, Rajkiran, has now been employed in the permanent position of Human Factors Business Partner.  

The Amey KTP was commended by the Rail Safety and Standards board and shortlisted for a ‘world class collaboration’ award by the UK Rail Industry Awards 2018 panel. CIRAS (the confidential incident reporting and analysis service) commended the Amey KTP and featured it twice in national publications.

VolkerRail’s behavioural safety efforts have been recognised in the form of a team award nomination (for behavioural safety coaches) at the RailStaff awards 2020. 

Image of VolkerRail

Supporting businesses through the COVID-19 safety measures

Dr Matteo Curcuruto, the PASH team co-lead, is currently working on a new international research project, supporting UK-based organisations in striking the balance between maximising their productivity and maintaining the highest safety standards to keep their employees and customers free from the risk of COVID-19 infection.

NHS 111 – new project to tailor NHS phone services


Currently, my colleague Dr Tom Muskett and I are working with Integrated Care 24, a leading social enterprise providing Integrated Urgent Care, and NHS England’s 111 non-emergency medical helpline. This follows on from our previous project, assessing human factors aspects and risks in the NHS 111 system. The new project, that we are in the early stages of setting up, is looking at mobilising a speech and text analysis system within the 111 service, with the aim of using analytics to drive insight into their population of service users and tailor their services to meet individual needs. 

I hope that this will offer an interesting opportunity for further research into component interactions and harm reduction for users of the 111 service – with the potential to grow into a new KTP or similar partnership project.

I have also recently carried out an evaluation of GambleAware’s funded gambling treatment and support system.

Get in touch to find out more about working with the team

We can work with your organisation to tailor a programme of applied research to the health and safety challenges you are facing. With access to sources of funding, it can be very economically viable to join forces with us at Leeds Beckett. For more information – get in touch at jim.morgan@leedsbeckett.ac.uk

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Head of the Psychology Applied to Safety and Health (PASH) research group at Leeds Beckett