Fleet News

Award winner’s profile: Dave Wallington, BT

British Telecom has saved millions of pounds through safety initiatives. Dave Wallington, group safety adviser and winner of the Fleet News Risk Management Award 2005 explains how it was done.

BT's group safety adviser is a man on a mission. After slashing the fleet’s accident rate by 30% he now wants to put 70,000 drivers through the company’s driver training programme.

The scale of the programme at BT has been immense with 33,000 employees already completing an online risk assessment, which has saved the company in the region of £4 million.

Not only has it managed to reduce accidents by almost a third, it is also one of the main reasons BT was awarded the Fleet News Fleet Risk Management Award sponsored by Kwik-Fit Fleet this year.

Dave Wallington, group safety adviser at BT, said: ‘The results have brought benefits to the business, including reduced costs and accident rates. It was a leap of faith when we took on the initiative as no-one else was doing it.

‘With occupational road risk, companies tend to wait for accidents to happen but we are now being more proactive.’

The BT training identifies high-risk drivers with a higher likelihood of crashing while on the road.

The programme also makes the data gathered more visible to managers. Prior to the training BT looked at how to get vehicles back on the road as quickly as possible. It now looks at why people have accidents and who is at most risk of accidents.

Wallington said: ‘As well as rolling the programme out across the whole business, we also want to introduce it to non-business drivers such as employees’ partners over the next few months.

‘By doing this we believe we can touch a quarter of a million people with the road safety message and as the system is automated it is simple to deliver to them.’

A massive health and safety purge company-wide, from lifting boxes in the office to safety harnessing for engineers up telegraph poles, has saved £40 million. Road safety is just one aspect.

Wallington said: ‘We have tried to integrate driving safety into the whole safety package so it gets buy-in from the rest of the company. We are also becoming proactive in other areas such as skill levels, driving knowledge and defensive driver techniques, which can all be monitored.’

There are 100,000 employees at BT, with 20 staff lmonitoring health and safety. Wallington said: ‘A change in attitude needs to come from the top of an organisation to show that risk management is important. Where the leaders go everyone follows and we are lucky that our senior people bought into the programme.’

Despite having the backing of the board there are still areas which Wallington would have tackled differently if given the task again.

In hindsight he would have communicated the programme more effectively to employees and involved the trade union sooner – two key lessons other fleets could learn from, according to Wallington.

He explained: ‘We tried to set up a group to oversee the health and safety strategy and programme but we didn’t communicate it effectively. We needed better publicity to show what we were trying to achieve, as it is very important to communicate with the audience. We also should have involved the trade unions earlier. They can influence their membership and are a good alliance to have as drivers listen to them.’

Wallington says that any fleet thinking about introducing a risk programme should also understand the long-term costs as not having the finance can make it very difficult.

Wallington is forging ahead with the safety initiative this year.

He said: ‘This year our main aim is to get every driver signed up to the programme. We will then look at the results and combine real accident data with data gathered by the programme.

‘We will also be looking at the claims handling process as we want to define a standard set of data to collect at each accident.’

The group is also currently working on its driver of the year programme. Drivers are assessed and the finalist is awarded £5,000 in cash. This has been implemented to reward good drivers and it also provides BT with additional information, as drivers have to complete a questionnaire.

Wallington added: ‘Providing good information for fleet drivers is the main point. It is good to share knowledge, good to learn from other people and good to pass on your knowledge.’

What the judges said

‘BT has about 40,000 cars and vans and a further 30,000 BT staff may be called upon to drive their own vehicles for work. By actively managing procedures and risk assessment providers, the fleet has made immense strides in making driver safety and accident reduction one of the most important parts of operating the business.

Close links between the safety team and the chief executive, along with a hi-tech road risk assessment programme, help identify the most at-risk drivers. All new drivers are thoroughly assessed too and the safety message is hammered home. The policy is definitely working, with accidents down 30% over four years.’

David Wallington career profile

  • 1984 – 1996: naval health inspector in the Royal Navy
  • 1996-1998: safety adviser for North Yorkshire Police
  • 1998 - 2002: safety adviser and latterly group safety manager at WH Smith
  • 2002 – present day: group safety adviser for BT
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