Embedding safety culture at First Group

First Group staff with leafletsSince 2006 we’ve been working with First Group and subsidiaries to help with embedding an improved safety culture – Injury Prevention.

We’ve  created different stories and methods to suit the needs of the business and of the individuals and groups involved (Download pdf: summary First Group case study).

Drama-based learning has had a significant effect on First Group’s safety record.  Since January 2007 we’ve had a 47% reduction in time lost through injury and a 30% drop in collision and red signal mistakes.  Further, our database shows over 500K injury prevention contacts have been made between employees and managers.

Naveed Qamar, Group Safety Director, First Group


See short video case study:

There are three key areas of work:

Capturing hearts and minds – we had to find a way to encourage people at all levels of the organisation to make a personal connection with health & safety.   One of the first events we ran involved a story about the death of a child in a road accident – Jim’s Story shows the impact of that on the driver (Jim), family and colleagues.  At the end of the event everyone is given a hair bobble to remind them of the connection between safety systems and the people who are important to them in their lives.  

Tony McNiff’s comments below (Managing Director, First Cymru Buses Ltd, Wales) show the impact and effectiveness of this approach.  

The event – Jim’s Story – was the first of its kind that I’d been to and I found it extremely moving.  I carry the child’s hair bobble in my Injury Prevention Book.

People often ask me why it’s there.  I tell them that every time I open the book I see the hair bobble and it reminds me of my daughter and that makes health & safety personal for me – the hair bobble acts as a trigger for further safety conversation.

What’s so valuable is being able to learn lessons from a fictionalised accident without having to go through the experience in real life.”

Developing leadership capacity – corporate leaders of any organisation but particularly those operating in high risk industries, need to see themselves as safety leaders.  This means incorporating health & safety as a core organisational value but also understanding how their own decisions and behaviour impacts on the organisation’s safety culture.

One of the methods we use is a play – Safe as Houses – based on the US Chemical Safety Board Investigation Report into the Texas City Refinery Disaster of 2005.  The play communicates the root and contributory causes of this disaster, showing how safety systems, decision-making practices and leadership culture created a situation in which serious injury and death was highly likely.

In Safe as Houses Forum Interactive has taken a huge technical document and turned it into something that anyone can understand…they’ve created BP out of a kettle and an empty space!

Granville Lavin, Health & Safety Manager, Translink (UK)

Improving Safety Conversations – the organisation needed to get better at learning from high-potential incidents and sharing experience and knowledge.  Skills workshops and 1:1 coaching were used to help managers, supervisors and leaders to improve the quality of their conversations.   Such ‘conversations’ might happen at a ‘tool-box talk’ or at a conference or between a manager and employee or between colleagues.

One method we used was ‘interactive live-action scenarios’:

It’s a bit like holding a mirror up to your own behaviour.  The scenes encourage us to talk about the issues.  You come out thinking ‘I can do that differently’.

John Evens, Group HR Director, First Group

Tess Allen


++44 (0) 7920 207732


Further information can be found below:

Download pdf: summary First Group case study

Download PDF: Its the way you tell it