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How COVID-19 is changing our safety approach


Jane Austin, Group Director HSE

One thing that has been really apparent to me in the last few months is that we all deal with things vastly differently. I always knew this (it’s stating the obvious), but what I don’t think I fully appreciated was how we need to build people’s feelings into our safety management approach. For years we have considered behaviours, but not feelings and, while this wouldn’t ordinarily be part of how we manage risk, these are not ordinary times!

How covid is changing our safety approach

This is much more complex; our people have very different feelings and we need to ensure that – whether they are anxiety free and coasting through the situation or extremely vulnerable and concerned – how they are feeling is recognised and respected. So how do we approach this sensitively?

It largely involves talking and listening to people: understanding their fear or lack of it; what’s causing their anxiety; how can we help to reassure; what support do they need; what are the practical things we can put in place; how do we ensure they have the information they need in a format that they can easily engage with? Just as important is providing an opportunity to get involved, so that our people can contribute to the controls, influence messaging, and shape our overall approach to ensure that it’s one that meets their needs. Just telling people “how it is” won’t alleviate those fears, and it certainly won’t enable them to perform at their best.

Our number one priority throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been the health and wellbeing of our people and their families. Over the last six months we’ve worked hard to understand the real issues our people are facing and put in place the support mechanisms they need: enabling effective remote working; communicating regularly; providing managers with practical guidance on leading their teams; sharing health and wellbeing advice; and setting up employee-led networks. As we’ve implemented COVID-Secure measures for our sites, we’ve recognised that our people feel differently about working on site, so we have incorporated this into our guidance.

Throughout we have worked with our employee representatives to ensure we are including the ‘employee voice’ in our decision making. In addition, our core communication channels encourage feedback, contribution and comment. Our inclusive approach is making a difference. In our recent engagement survey, we achieved a 8.6 (out of 10) score for putting in place the appropriate safety precautions to keep our people safe.

There is more we can do and, as we look towards the next six months, we are taking what we have learnt into our safety planning. We’re committed to listening to how our people feel and making sure that their concerns and views are considered, and that they are involved in shaping our plan. This collaborative way of working requires us to come together across all the different areas in our company. It’s this truly joined up approach, taking into account real feelings, that will make the difference.

Being part of QinetiQ means being central to the safety and security of the world around us, and that includes looking after the health and wellbeing of our people. It’s our number one priority, because everything we do is about protecting what matters most.