Investing in safety
A First Group case study

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Page 5: Benefits of a safe working environment

The focus on safety has contributed to First becoming the leading transport operator in the UK and North America. First realises that its staff are its primary resource in ensuring the safety of its customers. There are a number of employee safety practices developed by FirstGroup:

  • Mobiles and motoring do not mix company policy states that no employee or contractor on company business can make or take a call on a mobile phone while in charge of a vehicle. This is regardless of the hands-free option. Reaction times are on average 50% slower when using a mobile phone when driving.
  • The speed limit in all depots and in every bus station is a maximum of 10 mph at all times because of the number of people likely to be moving around in this area. A slow speed reduces the risk of anyone being hurt. This applies to staff driving both company and their own vehicles.
  • All vehicles must reverse park as evidence has proven there are fewer collisions.
  • Use of high-visibility jackets on premises.
  • Holding onto handrails when using stairs.
  • Carrying Injury Prevention handbook at all times whilst on company business to provide an instant record of any safety related incidents.
  • In addition to their standard training, bus drivers also complete a one-day Advanced Safe Driving course. This results in safer driving, less stress for drivers and a more comfortable ride for passengers.
  • First's buses and trains are fitted with CCTV and safety notices for passengers.
  • First uses training simulators for bus drivers and train drivers. The state-of-the-art simulators can offer a number of scenarios for the drivers, for example, snow, flooding, objects hitting the windscreen and even animals on a railway line.

Each year First hosts internal health and safety conferences in the UK and North America. Annual figures are discussed and plans are set for the following year. Every month Executive Safety Committee meetings are held and representatives from across the business are required to attend and review safety programmes.

Regular Injury Prevention Tours are carried out by directors and other members of staff. These help to assess safety levels across the business. The intranet and internal company newsletter carry up-to-date information on safety themes. Staff are encouraged to talk about health and safety issues with their line managers at any time. When new staff are employed, they are given a safety briefing within their first week of employment. At this time they are issued with their Injury Prevention handbook.

First also collaborates with other organisations to ensure the safety of its customers. For example, in Aberdeen the organisation is working with the local authority to identify potentially hazardous stretches on their bus routes. Plans can be made to prevent accidents in these areas.

First's focus on safety has enabled it to win the European Road Safety Excellence Award from the European Union and the Green Cross for Safety Medal from the National Safety Council in North America. There are also internal awards within the organisation. Every company nominates a person or a team that has demonstrated outstanding safety practice. The winner receives a financial donation for the charity of their choice. For example, in 2009 First ScotRail and the bus company First in Devon and Cornwall each received First's top safety award. This was in recognition of their exceptional approach towards safety management. These awards not only reward those individuals and companies that have delivered outstanding safety performance, but also give everyone encouragement to improve their own performance.

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First Group | Investing in safety