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Using the S-Word at work - hear how McNicholas’ sustainability strategy is helping prevent injuries

17 July 2013

Using the S-Word at work - hear how McNicholas’ sustainability strategy is helping prevent injuries

Hi, I’m Emma Ward, Group Sustainability Manager at McNicholas - one of Virgin Media’s longstanding contractors who help connect Virgin Media customers with the digital world. Like Virgin Media, sustainability has a central role to play in our business and so recently we’ve been working in close collaboration with their sustainability team to share and build on all the work we’re doing in this space.


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In 2012, McNicholas launched ‘The S-Word’ – our sustainability strategy which commits us to 34 ways of improving how we protect the natural environment, act in a socially responsible manner and grow in a way that isn’t detrimental to our world and the communities in which we work.

As part of this, we operate an environmental management system in line with ISO 14001 and we also manage our carbon footprint to ISO 14064, but what The S-Word has really helped us do is place greater focus on our social responsibilities and this is an area we’ve been working particularly closely on with Virgin Media.

The health and safety of the public and our employees is at the top of our corporate agenda and it forms an essential part of The S-Word. As part of this, our LOOKOUT for Safety campaign aims to address the behaviours of our workforce so that they accept greater ownership of safety in the workplace, understanding that it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure we all go home safely to our families at the end of the day.  Each year LOOKOUT for Safety takes to the road as an opportunity to engage directly with the workforce about safety and sustainability and, in 2013, our big focus has been on the reporting of ‘near misses’.

A ‘near miss’ is a potential accident or incident waiting to happen, whether that be an untidy worksite or someone not wearing the correct protective work wear. With accidents in the workplace it’s often just a fortunate break in a chain of events that prevents someone’s world changing forever and the more we know about potential dangers at work, the more we can do to address them.  That’s why over the years we’ve been striving to increase the proportion of near misses reported.

Last April we made real progress in this area through our pledge that for every near miss reported, McNicholas would donate £1 to the Lighthouse Club Benevolent Fund, a charity that financially helps construction workers should they be unable to work due to an accident or ill health. This charity resonated with our workforce and, at the end March 2013, we saw a 180% increase in the number of near misses reported from the previous year resulting in a healthy £2,223 donation to The Lighthouse Club.

Our Virgin Media workforce were instrumental in this, increasing their contribution to the group eightfold! More reporting generates greater awareness of issues, promoting better working practices and, using our new ‘Near Miss Boards’, we can provide feedback on what’s being flagged and the actions we’ve taken to make worksites even safer.

In the future, I’m hoping to report more about the way our S-Word strategy is making real differences at McNicholas and how our relationship with Virgin Media in this area makes for exciting, innovative ideas going forward…watch this space!