Understanding each other and taking care of each other: upskilled on safety

When we all understand each other a little better, the construction site immediately becomes a lot safer. That is what a large group of construction site management staff learned during a five-part safety training course as part of our Take Care safety programme. But it went deeper than that. Because in one's brain - that's where it starts.

How does the brain work? How can we explain unsafe behaviour on construction sites? And can we positively influence this behaviour? Colleagues learned this in substantive lectures, open discussions and workshops with guests. As many accidents on construction sites are caused by human behaviour, this knowledge is more than useful.

The course was followed by a large group of Ballast Nedam colleagues in operational management positions on the building site, such as foremen, site managers, project managers and project directors.

Influencing behaviour

The course mainly focused on awareness. As our colleagues now better recognise human behaviour and start creating time to alert each other to risks, the construction site becomes safer. KPE trainer Frans Bosch took charge of the course. "It actually works very simply: if we like each other, we take better care of each other. As a result, we can protect each other better and earlier from unsafe situations. But we need to understand each other better first. We often don't manage that very well. This is a topic that everyone need to let sink in for a while. It often takes some time before it falls into place."

It often takes some time before it falls into place
Frans Bosch KPE trainer

Surprised participants

"I must honestly say that I joined the course somewhat sceptically," says Tom Peppink, project manager on major infrastructure projects at Ballast Nedam. "My expectation was as follows: some shocking statistics, 'it has to be improved', raising awareness, sticking post-its together and getting back to work. But against my expectation, almost the entire course consisted of lectures on how the human brain works."

Tom says: "A great example I found was the fact that by nature we are always inclined to choose what we think is the quickest/most efficient solution. At the same time, we also tend to overestimate ourselves. We then think: 'I'll hold on tight'. Or: 'that won't happen to me'. These two elements, I believe, are at the root of many accidents."

Our colleague Nienke Scheide, quality coordinator on construction and infrastructure projects, was also surprised by this format of the course. "I found it very interesting to learn more about the brain and our behaviour," she says. "I explore this topic more often, so it was a course that suited me well. Looking back, I think we now leave with a lot of thinking as homework. After all, we now have to start applying the knowledge we have gained carefully on the construction site, and we all still have to make that link. Every person is different in that."

Tom agrees: "When I look at most of the accidents that happen on our projects, it is usually not a lack of rules, facilities or procedures that make things go wrong. Very often a person makes a human error of judgement. But: how should it be done? The course lays a good foundation to think about this further."

What's next?

More and more Ballast Nedam colleagues are taking the course, so the knowledge is spreading more and more widely. "This first completed training course is a start of a large process in which we have been fully engaged with a group of ambassadors. It reflects the essence of our Take Care safety campaign," says Geert van der Linde, director of safety at Ballast Nedam. "This knowledge has to get into the capillaries of the organisation. We are working hard on that."

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