The Seed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group has long been positioned as an organisation that takes the health and safety and welfare of its workers very seriously — delivering workplace standards that set benchmarks for excellence in the UAE.

For evidence of this, you need look little further that the naming earlier this year of the group’s operational entity, Al Naboodah Group Enterprises (ANGE), as the UAE’s happiest working environment for 2017 by the Ministry of Human Resources & Emiratisation.

And indeed, the group enjoyed an annual employee turnover rate of just 16% in 2016 — against an average of 30% for the country.

Such successes are built on efforts that the group has for years been putting into its driving safety, health, environment and quality (SHEQ) and worker welfare improvements across its construction and commercial activities.

At present, these activities currently include the oversight of more than 20 companies and 16,000 employees — of whom 14,000 are employed within the construction segment.

Despite this scope, the group maintains strict control over its safety, and in 2016 reported a lost time injury (LTI) frequency rate of just 0.14 per 100,000 man-hours across its construction businesses — down from 0.15 in 2015, and 0.39 in 2014 — and zero workplace-related fatalities.

Robert Munn, the GM for SHEQ at ANGE, and formerly head of HSE for the construction group, comments: “Last year as a business, we had seven LTIs over 50 million man-hours worked — which is pretty good in any industry.”

Munn went from construction specialist to group generalist in February, but the focus of his role remains much the same: “The biggest percentage of the group is still construction, and so this accounts for the majority of the safety issues, and probably 80% of our risk.”

He adds: “This year, we have set ourselves the target of improving this to 0.12 — though the problem with targets that low is just a couple of incidents will prevent you from hitting them.”

Munn notes that LTIs, as a lagging indicator, are part of a very traditional way of looking at safety, that ultimately overlooks the full scope of a contractor’s health and safety related activities and potential impact on site.

For Munn, a more pertinent focus, beyond such statistics, is the behaviour of the group’s employees in the workplace — and so recently he has been working to develop a more holistic approach to HSE that empowers individuals to address their own occupational risk.

And with respect to this approach, there is no doubt that attitudes taken to the operation of plant, machinery and vehicles on site are key.

After work at height, which Munn notes is “always number one and still the biggest killer in construction”, he highlights plant movement, lifting operations and the issue of pedestrian segregation as three key areas of risk.

In general he notes: “We have a lot of civil works within our portfolio at the moment —    at the Expo 2020 site and on other projects — and that interface between people and plant is always a major issue... alongside peoples’ perceptions of what is safe and what’s not.

“So those are the high-risk areas, and if we have an accident or near miss that falls into one of these categories, it’s what we call a critical incident. On the flipside of that, activities involving plant tend to be well planned, because we know they’re high risk — so what you tend to find is that the majority of your accidents and incidents are actually around very basic things: slips, trips and falls, and people’s behaviour.”

It is important to add that ANGE also has a construction equipment division, National Plant, which provides internal and external equipment rental and maintenance services.