26th Nov, 2023 Read time 7 minutes

Raising Safety Standards with Occupational Health Services from Abbott 

Darren Thompson, Ainscough Crane Hire Limited. HR Director

Ainscough Crane Hire was founded in Wigan, UK, in 1976 and now operates nationally from 30 locations. It is the UK’s largest crane hire company with a diverse fleet of over 400 cranes and mobile towers ranging in lifting capacity from 40T to 800T, as well as the accompanying haulage trucks and trailers needed to transport machinery regionally and nationally. Ainscough employs more than 800 highly trained team members, with over 600 of these working on site to provide specialist lifting solutions for construction, power generation, petrochemical and emergency response applications. A deep commitment to staff and customer safety underpins all of Ainscough’s projects, leading the company to establish its own industry-recognised ‘Make the Safe Choice’ ethos. This comprehensive approach to a safe system of work stems from the team’s extensive experience, knowledge base, focuses on understanding and identifying potential dangers and responding appropriately to prevent physical and mental harm. In addition to this, every lift that Ainscough delivers is in line with BS 7121, the code of practice for the safe use of cranes.

A Preventative Safety Strategy 

The use and transport of cranes involves inherently complex tasks and can be dangerous if not carried out in line with official safety guidance. Possible risks include workers or goods falling from height, road accidents, falls on site or musculoskeletal issues resulting from heavy and repetitive manual tasks. However, the less obvious long-term health effects of crane operation are increasingly being recognised, as the sedentary nature of the job may exacerbate or contribute to obesity, diabetes and back pain for some individuals. Furthermore, frequent lone working and the stress caused by the heavy responsibility of the role can result in mental health difficulties, which may sometimes be harder to pinpoint and treat than physical injuries. These adverse health effects could pose safety risks in themselves, as they can affect an individual’s ability to perform their job correctly by impairing awareness, reaction times and physical capacity. Medical problems can also lead to long absences from work and this in turn may negatively affect employee mental health as well as constituting a significant financial burden to the employer in extended sick pay, replacement staff and loss of business opportunity. Ainscough on average experiences 700 hours of employee absence a month due to sickness, resulting in a loss of tens of thousands of pounds on a regular basis, further underlining the need to actively promote employee wellbeing.

A Flexible Partnership

For this reason, Ainscough always aims to exceed requirements cited by the numerous UK minimum health and safety standards and guidelines – including the Health and Safety at Work Act and BS 7121 – and is never satisfied with merely ticking boxes. The company has been partnering with Abbott for many years in order to provide its employees with comprehensive occupational health services and enhance their overall wellbeing and business productivity. Abbott continually assesses the company’s occupational health provision and works with the Ainscough team to maintain compliance with relevant UK health and industry legislation. This end-to-end service includes pre-placement and periodic medical assessments for staff members working in safety-critical positions, to identify any pre-existing medical conditions jeopardising safety or problems that may have arisen due to job activities. These checks differ slightly according to each specific role and include tests for hearing and vision, drugs and alcohol, hand and arm vibration damage, balance, mobility and coordination. “We take our duty of care as an employer very seriously and pride ourselves on always going above and beyond the legal stipulations for safety in the workplace. Abbott listens to what we want as an organisation and provides us with a custom-built occupational health solution, designed around our values and requirements as an organisation. An off-the shelf package simply wouldn’t enable us to do this.” Darren Thompson, HR Director at Ainscough Crane Hire.

Transparent Communication 

Abbott’s comprehensive and customised services feature occupational health elements that are specific to the niche work environments encountered by Ainscough’s workforce. This provision includes on-call access to a qualified pharmacist who can advise Ainscough on the potential safety ramifications or side effects of a particular health condition or medication, once disclosed by a staff member. This helps Ainscough to decide whether an employee is capable of safely carrying out their designated role, needs extra assistance, or should be placed in an alternative position for their own wellbeing and to meet relevant legislative guidelines. As part of this complete occupational health programme, Abbott also coordinates for-cause drug and alcohol testing in situations where intoxication is suspected and performs random testing of 20 percent of the entire Ainscough workforce throughout the year. These unannounced, non-routine assessments act as an effective deterrent between prearranged appointments and flag up any problems before they become systemic and negatively affect site safety. Monthly management data and office visits from Ainscough’s allocated account manager at Abbott forms a partnership that provides regular feedback on failed medicals or inconclusive or nonnegative test results, highlighting issues or trends that need to be addressed. “The detailed management data we receive from Abbott every month allows us to hone our health surveillance to create a safer workplace for our employees. It has also helped us to begin developing new working methods that will reduce the risk of accidents and injuries in the future.” “Working with a single occupational health service provider frees us up to focus on other things internally and enables us to provide a coordinated service for our staff.” “We’re a 24-hour business, so we appreciate being able to call an Abbott representative at any time for support. Our account manager is highly knowledgeable and is very responsive to all our queries, maintaining regular contact even during the pandemic. This personal, hands-on approach to communication has been key to the success and longevity of our working relationship over several years.”

A People-Centred Attitude

In the event of a failed medical or a non-negative drug and alcohol result, Abbott follows a structured protocol that protects employee confidentiality and signposts each individual towards the care they need to recover quickly and return to work safely. This robust approach, using multiple tools, involves remote case management, medication checking and functional capacity assessments, all carried out with the mental and physical wellbeing of the staff member at the forefront. In some cases, it may not be possible for an individual to immediately enter into their previous role, as a result of their health condition or ongoing treatment. In these circumstances, Abbott and Ainscough work together to find an alternative temporary position for the individual that is more suitable, enabling them to continue working or return to site as soon as possible. This helps to maintain the high safety standards Ainscough is known for, as well as supporting better morale among employees and improving site productivity. “Abbott’s Employee Wellbeing Programmes create awareness of common health issues among Ainscough workers and outline simple ways they can lead healthier lifestyles to help prevent future instances of sickness and absence. They also help to remove the stigma associated with occupational health and support us in creating a communicative work environment in which we work together with our staff to make sure they get the support they need, when they need it.” “We’re highly satisfied with the occupational health services provided by Abbott. We know we can trust the information and advice the team gives us and we are confident that this support will continue to help us operate safely in the years to come.”

*This article has been sponsored by our partners Abbott, established providers of workplace toxicology and occupational health services.

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