Our people are what the industry is built on

‘Geo resilience is critical for all businesses and in Mercury our structure was a godsend during the pandemic’ says Michael O Connor, Group EHS Director, Mercury Engineering

27th October, 2021
Our people are what the industry is built on

Michael O Connor, Group EHS Director, Mercury Engineering

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?

Every day is different and working with our clients and supply chain to ensure compliance with the Mercury way and legislation in all jurisdictions. My role involves highlighting the positives and recognising positive behaviours and actions. I also need to ensure we learn from issues to prevent recurrences and strive for continuous improvement either through using new technologies or translating our induction to more languages or interacting with our legal counsel in each country we operate in to understand variances in statutory requirements prior to commencing tasks in each country.

What is your professional background?

My professional background is civil engineering on both building and roads projects. Prior to commencing as an engineer, I worked onsite and fulfilled multiple manual roles which has greatly benefitted me personally in my day-to-day role as an EHS professional having worked on groundworks, demolition, fit outs, semi0conductor projects and assisted crews in installation of equipment and services including rigging and lifting.

As a civil engineer, I progressed to managing multiple “small” projects at any one time and measured and managed sub-contractor performance as well as setting out and handing over as builts and safety files to clients including local authorities, the ESB, and private commercial clients.

I subsequently moved into PSDP / PSCS roles for 3 years and worked as primary PSDP on approximately 200 projects, which encompassed everything from D&B to city centre demolition and rebuilds, commercial high rise, healthcare, education projects on the UCD campus, financial client projects and ministry of defence related projects. As part of this employment period, I gained a lot of experience in coordinating multiple General contractors on 3rd level campus by fulfilling the PSCS role on behalf of a great client team, great days and no issues.

This role led to an opportunity in a confidential client facility where I worked as EHS manager, PSDP and PSCS coordinating multiple designers and general contractors across a live campus. It was a very enjoyable experience and really improved me as an EHS manager prior to my move to my present role where I have been for the last 8 years.

Do you believe the COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting impact on occupational safety and health and, if so, how?

Yes, and interestingly, I think Covid19 EHS proved what a great culture we have in the wider construction industry where our 6-point PPE was easily supplemented by face coverings.

We consulted with our teams and overcame the challenge relatively easily as an industry.

Going forward, the threat of future pandemics will ensure pandemic risk stays on our risk register and designers and contractors will try to eliminate or mitigate close contact work as much as possible by offsite fabrication and using design and constructability measures that in collaboration with the planning and sequencing of works can reduce unnecessary close contact work.

Geo resilience is critical for all businesses and in Mercury our structure was a godsend during the pandemic as our locally hired teams were set up for autonomy within the overall management strategy.

Going forward, flight restrictions and the knowledge that virtual QEHS tours are more than adequate will and already does reduce our carbon footprint from travel, previously we travelled all the time and what Covid has taught us is to travel when we can add the greatest value.

From an EHS team point of view, it was rewarding during the pandemic to watch our project EHS teams lead the way and the accelerated maturity and growth by our team was a bonus to the pandemic challenges.

How do you see tech innovation transforming this industry? What do you think will be the major breakthroughs over the next 5–10 years?

Mercury is hugely committed to technology innovation and our multi-disciplinary Digital Edge team have multiple innovations live and at trail stage across the group.

Virtual audits via real wear are already an integral part of our business for the last 2 years, and we are presently trailing virtual EHS programs that recognise EHS trends via camera and photographic records to give real time trend reports to our project EHS and management teams.

Before we jump too far into the future, we need to find solutions to speeding up the information flow from our trades and site-based personnel to feedback site conditions and trend and act on that information immediately and proactively to prevent incidents.

Our people are what the industry is built on as they build it! We need to improve the communication loop to a point where a click of a button tells us there is a perceived unsafe act or condition that has been paused and needs review by EHS. (Mercury are presently partnered with a Swedish company looking to trial a new technology in this area).

What will be the leading trends in safety and health in construction industry in coming years and how will businesses need to adapt?

There is only one major trend at present and that is deviations from the plan.

When everything is in place, the process and plan are in place and supervision and the crew have walked the task to understand the hazards and the safe way of working, the final frontier is making safe behaviours an absolute requirement.

Mercury have rolled out the Making Safety Personal (MSP) programme for the last few years and have achieved recognitions like “the safest project in the history of our 25-year global construction program” among other industry leading EHS recognitions from our clients.

MSP is the secret sauce we add to our world-class SMS program and our incredibly dedicated management team that believe in safety as a value and that safety adds value to quality and productivity.

Safety is good business and MSP reiterates to our team that taking one chance is one too many. As we say in Mercury, zero deviations = zero accidents / incidents #Work Safe #Home Safe.

Michael is speaking at the CIF’s Health & Safety Summit on Friday Oct 29. Visit www.cifsafety.ie for full details.

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