Scattered around the world lie the Holmes Group team. They are a self-described group of innovators who breathe life - along with a healthy dose of practicality - into the drawings from architects’ offices, leaving buildings in their place.
“We’re the people that make (the building) safe.” explains John Hare, Managing Director of the team. “We’re the people who make it stand up.”
While architects may dream up buildings with artistic flair, the Holmes Group team are the ones who turn the lines of a pencil into a physical place. It’s a careful balance of honouring the creativity they get presented with, but also building a structure that’s sturdy and safe.
Safety isn’t just the foundation of the work that the Holmes Group team embark on; rather, it’s the lens that shapes how every individual part of the process is undertaken.
“The basis of what we do is primarily health and safety.” agrees John. “So the safety of our people is paramount.”
Initially, their people’s safety was easy enough to manage within the confines of their office headquarters - a relatively low-risk environment peppered with the usual office hazards. However, when their team stepped foot out of the office, and onto their clients’ sites, the risk grew exponentially.
The nature of the work that Holmes Group does means visiting client sites to check up on building progress and project details.
“Stepping out of your comfort zone from your desk to site, you really need to switch on.” explains Caleb van Essen, Graduate Engineer and H&S Leader.
Onsite, risks are larger, complicated, and often unique to each job. This presents a whole host of new challenges for the team. Without an integrated platform at hand, retaining enough oversight of all the risks was a real challenge.
Their risk management needs were multifaceted. “We have a dual role.” says Paul Fairbairn, Construction Monitoring Project Engineer. “One looking after and making sure ourselves are safe onsite, but also looking after the contractors’ safety.”
The team needed to find a platform that could serve their specific needs for varied client sites, as well as extend to help manage their contractors’ safety too.
“We have to provide an environment where people are comfortable talking about when they’re not feeling safe on site,” elaborates Wayne Benson, Holmes Group’s Health, Safety and Wellbeing Manager.
The natural solution was ecoPortal, a truly integrated software that’s so user-friendly, frontline workers feel encouraged to speak up and take initiative with their own safety.
Fast forward several years, and ecoPortal has helped propel Holmes Group to new heights, with a tangibly-improved safety culture.
In particular, the team enjoys the configurability of the platform. It’s not a one size fits all situation; instead, the platform is wired to meet Holmes Groups’ needs. It was a huge selling point for John, and one the primary reasons they selected ecoPortal in the first place.
“We could get the degree of customisation optimisation that we were looking for,” he explains. “The product specialists and the programmer are very flexible, and very easy to work with.”
For others, the benefits come from ecoPortal’s contribution to the bigger picture. “ecoPortal is naturally set out as a storytelling mechanism,” Caleb describes, “It just helps you go through it, step by step, to break things down.”
Each incident or near-miss entry is laid out in its entirety. Every relevant person is assigned to it, and the health and safety team has eyes across the safety performance of the entire business, at any given time.
Paul enjoys this element: “It’s a matter of being able to have a discussion with whoever was involved in an incident or an event, regardless of where it was, and you know, are they okay, how do we prevent this occurring again.”
The investigation process is a critical piece of the health and safety puzzle, helping to improve health, safety and wellbeing for everyone involved. These days, the Holmes Group team navigates any unforeseen risk problem with a heightened sense of efficacy and control. Gone are the days of reactive decision-making, or low incident report numbers.
The team are also eager advocates for ecoPortal Connect, the mobile solution. When it’s mobile, it “becomes real-time, rather than trying to deal with something a week after someone gets back from a big trip,” explains Wayne.
When reports come to him at his desk, he can go through them himself, look up the events, and dig into as much detail as he needs to, in order to get a thorough understanding of exactly what happened - far better than the typical ‘knee-jerk response’ that was so common before.
The transparency of their data helps the team understand their safety, company-wide, far more. Incidents are presented as trends - many now declining - and the data gives the team a massive confidence boost in their responses and reporting.
With their internal safety system now echoing the innovative thinking that’s already ingrained in the Holmes Group culture, the entire team are now empowered to do what they do best, safely.