We spoke to EHS Regional Manager Yvonne McCawley about the importance of the CIF’s Construction Safety Month and her role in ensuring a safety-first culture at Kirby.
“This is the first year that the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) is running its safety campaign over a full month. Four weeks gives us the chance to explore the themes in more detail, allowing the messages we deliver across our projects, the time to embed,” says Yvonne.
Kirby is one of the main sponsors of CIF Construction Safety Month 2023. Yvonne’s team has been involved in the development of the theme and activities, with an internal committee formed to organise month-long activities across Kirby’s sites and offices.
“This year’s CIF Construction Safety Month theme is ‘Critical Risk’. At Kirby we recognise that it is our collective responsibility to identify and address the high-risk activities across our projects. To achieve this, we set up our internal ‘CIF Safety Campaign Committee’ back in July. We conducted a comprehensive review of our current critical risks, incident trends, and SEOR (Safety Environmental Observation Reports) analysis. The outcome has led to the creation of diverse and impactful events scheduled across Ireland, the UK and mainland Europe.
“It is important to acknowledge that each project will encounter different critical risks, based on project scope and which phase the project is in. This year’s theme affords us the flexibility to structure our safety campaign around each project’s specific, critical risks,” Yvonne adds.
For Yvonne, health and wellbeing are of critical importance, “Keynote speakers will present to our colleagues in October, with our mental health first aiders arranging toolbox talks and awareness events, with information on the support we and key partners can offer.
“Health checks have been organised on our larger sites and in our offices too. I would encourage everyone to get involved and use this time to focus on their health, wellbeing, and safety.”
At Kirby a Mental Health and Wellbeing Committee promotes awareness of the importance of caring for your mental health, with “Safety Month a key time for us to refocus, reassess and renew our commitment to look out for ourselves and everyone around us,” explains Yvonne.
Kirby’s people-first approach to safety was one of the reasons Yvonne joined Kirby 11 years ago, “We have a strong safety culture within Kirby, which is led from the board of directors. As Regional EHS Manager, knowing that I have the support from senior leaders, who are invested in getting all our people home safely every day, makes my role a little easier.”
Yvonne is based out of our Galway office and oversees the Connacht and Munster regions. Her day to day sees her work with clients and other contractors to develop strategic safety management plans for each site to ensure that sufficient risk mitigation controls are in place. Alongside each business unit manager, she also ensures that upcoming projects are adequately resourced, planned, and executed safely.
“It’s a fast-paced job, with collaboration required across different disciplines. I work with the operational teams, across the safety department, with the bid management teams, and others. Every site with more than 20 Kirby employees will have its own dedicated Kirby EHS advisor. A site-specific EHS plan is developed in preconstruction, outlining the partners on site and the specific arrangements for managing our scope of works, our critical risks and emergency response. I have 15 people in safety roles across both of my regions, and in total, Kirby employs 64 safety professionals within the EHS department.”
Mentoring is a key part of Yvonne’s role, she is part of the strategic planning group, and supports in the development of group-wide aims and objectives. “I’m in the mentoring space as a manager and have been developing onboarding support with others across the business. It is incredibly important that our new starters are aligned to our approach to safety. Here, they are afforded the opportunity to grow and progress their career; safety is a really rewarding career at Kirby.”
Yvonne has worked across Ireland and the UK with Kirby as part of her role. She graduated with a degree in Occupational Safety and Health from the Institute of Technology, Sligo in 2006, and recently completed her master’s degree in Environmental, Health & Safety Management.
She started her career as an EHS advisor in Dublin for a main contractor and later a roofing contractor. Wanting a base near her home in the West of Ireland, she joined Kirby in 2011. She explains, “Kirby was the natural choice, with offices across Ireland, I could be based near family, but also had the opportunity to travel and grow into other roles.”
With three young children she says, “Maintaining a work life balance in this fast-paced industry can be difficult, but it’s not impossible, especially with a good employer on your side. Family life is the most important thing to me, and Kirby understands that.
“With the company’s success in recent years, we have seen substantial growth across all our regions, and this growth opens up strong opportunities for EHS career progression. We also have a successful EHS graduate programme, with those successfully completing it progressing to become EHS Advisors,” says Yvonne.
We ask what is next for the team, Yvonne adds, “We will continue to invest in EHS graduates and look forward to building the next generation of EHS professionals.”
To find out more go to: cif.ie/safety-calendar-2023/