"Mental health is at a stage where safety was in the late 80’s"

Michael O Connor, Group EHS Manager, Mercury Engineering on the challenges and future of health and safety in the construction sector

23rd November, 2018
Michael O'Connor of Mercury Engineering will be speaking at the inaugural CIF Health & Safety Summit at Croke Park

What's your name?

Michael O Connor

What position do you hold?

Group EHS Manager, Mercury Engineering

What are your day to day responsibilities?

Managing our team of more than 50 EHS leads and advisors, maintaining compliance, auditing, building relationships, coaching and reporting to the board and guiding our team via prompt proactive communications. Mercury always investigate ways we can innovate and improve and driving our find it and fix it culture and further embedding safety for our employees as a value has been a personal journey for me that I enjoy.

What is your professional background?

I was educated in Civil Engineering and while I completed many roles in the industry before I settled down, my practical experiences of working on projects and managing sub-contractors has stood to me in my career as an EHS Manager.

I also completed the PSDP role on well over 150 projects across various sectors earlier in my career as well as completing the PSCS role on projects with 5k employees operating safely on a consistent basis.

Tell me about yourself away from work?

Away from work I am busy with my home life and family, I plan my weekends to get as much out of them as possible before returning to work each Monday refreshed.

Tell us something very few people know about you?

I represented my county (Kerry) underage / schools in three different sports (football / hurling / soccer).

I have a Dublin senior division 1 medal.

I scored shootout penalties in Kerry youths soccer finals 4 seasons’ apart (played youths for Tralee Dynamos for 4 seasons).

You are speaking at the 2018 CIF Health & Safety Summit. What are you speaking about?

Continuous improvement and innovation but most importantly the power of listening, reviewing, analysing and acting to produce practical means to improve safety in our company and the wider industry.

What challenges do you see for health and safety in the construction sector?

Documentation has improved hugely. From a main contractor perspective the challenges are more in the behavioural side of safety and bringing personnel with you consistently and seeing safety as a means to enjoy their home life in the same health as they came to work.

Peer to peer communication needs to be rolled out as an expectation across the industry. Until all personnel feel empowered to speak up and everyone is open to being spoken to then we are losing multiple opportunities for proactive interventions every day.

Behavioural safety training is one method of improving this aspect of the wider industry.

This needs to be rolled out across all contractors and the benefits need to be explained in advance to the cynics who see safety as a cost rather than a benefit.

Where would you like to health and safety in the industry in 10 years’ time?

As we have demonstrated on an ongoing basis in Mercury, accident and incident free is achievable day by day and week by week. We need everyone to believe it is possible and by correct planning and ongoing supervisor and management training this improvement is achievable.

People are there to be looked after and mental health is at a stage where safety was in the late 80’s. In 10 years’ time the wider industry will understand the benefits of a happier and healthier workforce. Mercury have invested huge volumes of time and consideration to our ongoing wellness programme and it has been extremely well received by our workforce.

Michael O'Connor will be speaking at the Construction Industry Federation Health and Safety Summit on November 28th at Croke Park. For more information, visit www.cifsafety.ie

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