Health&Safety in EWB NL projects

Health&Safety is an important topic in our everyday life: we intuitively evaluate the risks associated with a certain situation, think how we can mitigate them and assess if the outcome is still worth it.

To carry out its projects, EWB NL Foundation has set up a formal framework with checklists and procedures to address every project using our internally defined standards. We take Health&Safety very seriously and we consider safe execution as a pre-condition to every project. 

Identify Risks

We all know it is virtually impossible to reduce all risks to zero in most life situations and that includes our projects. This is why it is very important to identify the potential hazards, assess the associated risk and introduce mitigation measures to reduce that same risk to acceptable levels.

EWB NL Foundation runs projects around the world, which introduces some specific challenges as safety awareness and risk perception of local partners and financial resources for safety measures.

As responsible for HSE&Compliance, I have put together a reference manual that has been used to check every project run by the Foundation. The processes defined in the manual include the execution of a risk assessment and the development of a project specific HSE Plan.

Preparing for traveling

Before the journey, I sit with the traveling project member and we perform a risk assessment. The hazards we discuss are extensive and based on the country (e.g. transport, riots), project activities (e.g. electrocution, working at height), and other topics (e.g. heatstroke, poisonous animals, hygiene). For each of the identified hazards we define the preventive or mitigating measures which are already in place or are additionally required. As a premise we do not execute activities that carry high risks to our volunteers, and we follow the recommendations on traveling from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Despite our efforts on identifying and evaluating the risks in advance, it is possible that a specific risk is overlooked. For that reason we focus also on the Last Minute Risk Assessment (LMRA), a  technique that is widely used in the industry. In short, this method comes down to: before you do something take a step back and quickly evaluate what the risks are.

H&S in practice!

For example, in one of our projects we identified upon arrival that most of the public transportation was done on the back of a motorbike. On a call, the traveling team member and I evaluated the risks and alternatives and decided to purchase a helmet for him and for all volunteers who would follow him.

Staying Safe

For 2017 my plan is to maintain and continuously improve the Health&Safety management systems we have in place. In addition we have started processes to give more focus to the environmental aspect of H&S in our projects and to raise the Health&Safety awareness of the local communities as an integrated part of our projects.

Maarten Vriezen, is Board Member of the EWB NL Foundation. He is responsible for Health, Safety & Environment and Compliance within EWB NL and its projects. Maarten studied Mechanical Engineering and has, since his graduation (longer than he would like to admit), been an international consultant on Safety&Risk Management.