Writing on whiteboard

Sword of Honour awarded for health and safety excellence

Highest accolade received by Siemens Energy and joint venture partner BAM for Melgarve substation project.

When a substation project is complex, the location difficult and weather conditions testing, a recognition award for constructing it under the highest possible health and safety standards is well deserved.

This was Melgarve substation project, part of the 66-turbine Stronelairg wind farm located near the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland. A challenging location in itself at 370 metres above sea level, it also had the added complexity of frequent gale-force winds and freezing temperatures to further complicate  planning and logistics.


Siemens needed to ensure that, during construction, people, plant and the site itself were protected at all times, whatever the conditions. And that’s what it did – to an award-winning level.


In November 2019, Siemens Transmission Solutions became one of just 84 organisations worldwide to receive a prestigious Sword of Honour award for excellence in health and safety management from the British Safety Council. The Sword of Honour is open only to organisations that have achieved a five star outcome following the British Safety Council’s stringent Five Star Occupational Health and Safety Audit.


William Pilkington, EHS Manager for Siemens, says: “This is a comprehensive audit designed to rigorously test health and safety standards. It centres on six areas that are continually assessed during the process: leadership, stakeholder engagement, risk management, organisational health and safety culture, continual improvement, and wellbeing. Just starting the audit demonstrates a clear commitment to health and safety excellence.”


Following on-site reviews, stakeholder interviews and operational sampling, Siemens received its five stars. Although this wasn’t the last step to awards night: what followed was a written submission to an independent panel of experts to show how excellence in health and safety management had been achieved across the entire business – from substation to boardroom. 

Five stars and beyond

Siemens’ substations team had focused on the four areas the panel was concerned with and could easily demonstrate the initiatives and processes introduced at Melgarve that aligned with them.


From the start of the project, it was important to develop an ownership culture by ensuring participation of non-managerial groups in the improvement of the occupational health and safety management system (OHSMS). By including personnel in the development of safe systems of work like method statements, risk assessments and near miss investigations, engagement with the site and the project was high. Feedback mechanisms also allowed site personnel to see their input had been acknowledged and improvements implemented as a result.  


Equally important overall was mental health. Siemens places great importance on wellbeing and has a robust strategy for mental health awareness, so the site was quick to establish various routes of communication and processes to support employee mental health. An example for Melgarve was the well-received, stand-down day - “Start the Conversation” – which was held on site to show how to spot signs of mental health in the workforce.


Across all Siemens substations projects contractors must meet the requirements of its OHSMS. At Melgarve, a robust three-stage selection process was used to prove level of service was consistent with Siemens own. Once a contractor was selected, they were also required to attend a site-specific induction, as well as communication events like safety committee meetings, for the duration of the project.


It was also key for the site’s senior management to show how it ensured the continued effectiveness of the OHSMS. An example of excellence at Melgarve was the collaborative management review process that included contributions from the business unit director, EHS department and functional business heads, where identification methods were employed to recognise risks and opportunities.


Lawrence Waterman, Chairman of the British Safety Council, said: “On behalf of the board of trustees and staff of the British Safety Council I would like to congratulate Siemens Gas and Power  - Melgarve Project on achieving the very highest standards of health, safety and environmental management. Excellence at this level is very hard won. We are proud to have supported you in your achievements”.

Continuous improvement and successful initiatives

When a project is completed areas for continuous improvement are identified, and Melgarve was no different.

Health and safety is an area Siemens continually strives to improve. Its Zero Harm programme is always in focus and is considered in everything the company does and is, therefore, constantly under development. Siemens culture change programme will also see the further development of mental health support on project sites.


Successful initiatives held at Melgarve that have been adopted and are under further development are the training courses: Personal Choice and Safe Behaviours, and Front Line Safety Coaching.


When asked about how receiving a Sword of Honour benefited Siemens, Will Pilkington, said: “The award and assessment process gave us independent confirmation that our health and safety management systems are robust, well defined and embedded within the business. Suggested improvement have been developed into an action plan and being implemented for the benefit of our customer and future projects.”