ESB: Embedding a culture of safety

Business in the Community Ireland

Company Description:
ESB (Electricity Supply Board) is a leading Irish company in the energy utility sector, employing over 9,300 people. It is 95% owned by the Government of Ireland, with the remaining shares held by an employee share ownership trust. In 2004, ESB had a turnover of €2,488.9m and a profit after tax of €267.3m. ESB operates through four businesses: ESB Power Generation, ESB Customer Supply, ESB Networks and ESB Commercial Enterprises.

Business Issue:
The ESB is undertaking an ambitious engineering and construction programme to strengthen the electrical power system in Ireland. This work will be completed against a background of market restructuring, internal reorganisation and is expected to cost in excess of €4 billion when completed. The ethos central to the roll-out of the programme is that it be delivered to the highest possible safety standard, consistent with the organisation’s emphasis on safety of staff, customers and the general public.

Solution Applied:

  • Since March 2003, the CEO actively championed a Safety Leadership Programme.
  • A Group-wide methodology for managing contractor safety was developed and implemented.
  • Personal responsibility for safety was integrated into the everyday execution of work for each employee.
  • The international standard OHSAS 18001 was adopted as the framework to achieve the integration of safe business management practice.
  • A programme of stakeholder involvement was initiated through joint reviews, contractors, business and farming organisations, union/staff associations, safety representatives and safety committees were engaged and consulted to;
  • Ascertain stakeholder feedback
  • Get commitment to safety practices
  • Jointly develop solutions
  • An independent benchmarking tool was developed to assess the effectiveness of safety practices.

Company Benefits:

  • Direct financial savings of €6.4 million, based on international guidelines on average cost of an injury.
  • Staff surveys show a 20% increase in perception of safety as a core business value.

Stakeholder Benefits:

  • Number of injuries reduced by 50% over three year period, resulting in 212 less injuries to staff.
  • Senior managers who have conducted audits of safety practices have commented favourably on the experience.

ESB published a revised and expanded Group Policy and Framework Safety Statement in 2010. Our 2010 Safety performance outturn was very positive with overall staff and contractor lost time injuries down 45% on 2009 and down 26% on target. Our goal is zero injuries and we have made very considerable progress in this direction.

We are committed to implementing OHSAS 18001, an externally accredited quality system to support the management of safety in the company. Over 40% of ESB staff operated within business areas that had achieved OHSAS registration in 2010 and our aim is to have all activities included within the scope of this system by the end of 2012.
Departments Involved:
All departments.

Solution Champion:
Ronan Collier, Group Safety, Health and Wellbeing Co-ordinator. Email: