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Putting people in their proper place

Chime communications’ company icon has undergone the rigorous assessment required to become BS OHSAS 18001 certified. What about you?

Investing in people is far more than a mere box-ticking exercise for branding and event specialist Icon, which this summer became BS OHSAS 18001 certified. And if you’re wondering what that is it’s not surprising, because under 1% of UK businesses have the occupational health and safety management systems standard. So why has Icon bothered, and should you follow suit?

Well, according to Keith?Goodwin, Icon MD, it’s a?potential business builder. As he explains: “We have always been?proud of the service we offer our?clients and the fact that we?have been able to deliver this to the highest standards of creativity along with due regard to occupational health and safety matters for all our staff - be they office or site based.

“With the awarding of our BS OHSAS 18001 certification this approach had now been recognised by outside experts who are used to judging standards on a daily basis across a wide variety of trades and industries. If this international recognition of the quality of our business and management processes helps us to win just one major contract in the next 12 months then it will have more than paid for itself.”

That’s obviously what Icon is expecting from having undergone rigorous assessment by an independent body to achieve this certification. As Goodwin points out: "The world's leading brands need to have complete confidence not only in Icon's creative and installation abilities but also in its business practices. They need to know that we will not let them or our staff down. When companies are operating on a global stage the possible risks of damage to their reputation and business caused by a negative experience, let alone any legal ramifications, cannot be underestimated."

He continues: "Tender documents for events like Rio 2016 and the FIFA World Cup are scrupulous in their detail but having achieved internationally recognised standards like BS OHSAS 18001 puts us one step ahead. Without them we may not even get an invitation to tender."

Steve Foster, is health and safety manager at Icon, and is convinced that certifications like BS OHSAS 18001 show both staff and clients alike that Icon is very serious about the welfare of its people, and thus enlists a strong sense of engagement from both parties, a real business benefit in a highly competitive market though its hard to measure in simple financial terms.

"To measure the real success of achieving the standards, you need to take a look back at where you were before achieving them and comparing it to where you are today; the notable difference should mean that you are now at a level where you are able to tender for some ‘bigger fish’ while not forgetting the needs of your ‘smaller fish’.”

Now 150 full time staff populate Icon’s headquarters in south-east England, supporting a turnkey menu of design, production and project management services and providing solutions for some of the world's largest events and brands. Acquired by Chime Communications in April 2011, Icon is part of the group’s CSM sport and entertainment division headed by Lord Coe as executive chairman. But at the time of Foster’s appointment in 2006 Icon had just started its transformation from being an established signage company to becoming the major international player it is today, thus he’s well placed to measure the success and impact of the various certification schemes Icon has taken on board.

At the time of his appointment Icon was one of the few companies in the signage industry to have a dedicated health and safety manager, a situation that’s not much changed. Foster explains that firstly Icon looked to the quality management standard ISO 9001:2008, and started to refine, refresh and renew the management systems, standards and processes that were already in place, a project that helped the company achieve certification in February 2007. The following year Icon also gained the environmental ISO 14001:2004 accreditation.

"As a result of these measures we have been able to make real financial savings. A significant reduction in electricity consumption was brought about by changing the lighting tubes and we are now in the situation where we recycle more materials than we send to landfill. These relatively simple schemes have proven their true worth, even to those that previously viewed these standards with some scepticism," explains Foster.

The company's next step was to ensure full compliance to the Carbon Trust Standard, which it achieved in 2011.

"Having robust systems in place for the existing ISO standards and having shown the business benefits of adopting a more environmentally friendly approach we started to look at what was required for ISO 18001,” Foster continues. There was good reason to do so. At the same time Icon was in serious discussion with London 2012, for whom the highest standards of compliance and environmental management were a pre-requisite in terms of suppliers. So the decision was taken by Icon to work towards BS OHSAS 18001 as proof of its commitment to occupational health and safety.

So how does it all hang together? Foster explains that "QMS, external auditors of the standards, come in on a yearly basis to ensure we are fully compliant by examining all the processes and inspecting and substantiating our documentations. Working with QMS has made the whole process of achieving certification much smoother and easier than we first thought and I would highly recommend them to anyone seeking to achieve certification."

It is Foster’s responsibility to ensure staff’s continued adherence to the company’s various standards as part of his day-to-day work. The company holds regular review meetings to ensure continual compliance and management of the standards are being met. This includes reviewing operational tasks such as management information reports, customer satisfaction and training requirements.

Icon staff know they are working for a company that is operating at the top of its game. They know it cares about its staff and has the standards and processes in place that make this more than just a glib phrase. Foster has ensured that an understanding of the various processes and policies are included in every staff members' induction and the benefits are understood by all personnel across all departments and sites.

Danny Littlechild, who undertook the BS OHSAS 18001 assessment this past summer for QMS International, paid particular tribute to “the investment in people and training that enables Icon to provide an efficient and occupational health an safety aware service to their customers.” And certification means the customers know it.

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