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Finnish safety training park makes workplace risks more visible
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Finnish safety training park makes workplace risks more visible

| Text: Fayme Alm, photo: Maria Rosenlöf

Everyone should return home in the evening. That is the motto for construction workers. But you need more than theoretical knowledge in order to eliminate the risks of accidents. Like bringing routines closer to people’s hearts. A visit to a safety training park speeds things up.

“Nobody owns the knowledge here. We share it just like we share our experiences. Positive and negative alike. Anything that can play a role in improving safety in fact,” says Lasse Heikkinen. He is addressing a group of service engineers and supervisors from Finnish TetraPak, and this is their introduction to their visit to the Rudus safety training park. 

Lasse Heikkinen’s job at Rudus is to spread knowledge about safety in the construction industry, and he is also in charge of the upkeep of the safety training park. He combines the job with his studies in Safety, Security and Risk Management at the Laurea University of Applied Sciences.     

TetraPak’s visit to the safety training park was initiated by one of their service engineers, Veikko Pullinen, who did the same course as Lasse Heikkinen a bit earlier. The two have kept in touch.   

Veikko Pullinen

Veikko Pullinen inspects the main switch. Knowing where this is situated can save lives. This one has a warning sign saying it is out of action.

“TetraPak launched a global campaign for workplace safety last year. Everything we learned from that was relevant, but I knew via Lasse that this safety training park makes everything a bit more concrete when it comes to accidents that might happen when you are doing fieldwork like we do,” says Veikko Pullinen. 

Working in a challenging environment

TetraPak’s service engineers install and repair machinery in different types of industries across Finland. This means they take their equipment both to completed plants and to some that are still under construction.

“We face special conditions and challenges, and experience new environments all the time. Sometimes you have to adapt to the client’s wishes. That’s when you must make sure you also adapt to the safety situation and understand which safety regulations and routines must be followed,” says Veikko Pullinen

At Lasse Heikkinen’s introduction ends, he shows Veikko Pullinen and the rest of the group out to the safety training park. They are ready for the next step.

Harry Kaponen

Harry Kaponen next to a construction site with a safety net.

The need to study how workplace accidents in the construction industry occur and how to prevent them from happening is a global one. So far this year Rudus safety training park has welcomed visitors from Estonia, Lithuania, Ireland, Brazil and Russia.

Fatal workplace accidents do still happen, despite measures taken to reduce the risk. The past decade saw between 5 and 14 deaths annually in the Swedish construction industry, according to the Swedish Work Environment Authority. The numbers for Finland during the same period was between two and nine annual deaths

Risks, but also solutions

Lasse Heikkinen begins the tour of the safety training park by asking the group from TetraPak: Which risks do you face in your work? How can you avoid them? Have you had any training? The conversation gets going and is linked to different stations in the park, which detail real past events to demonstrate both accident risks and how to avoid them.

“A lot of what we see in the park makes us think about things which we should talk about, even if the situations are not directly representative of our workplace. The car wreck for instance, that brings out emotions. There is often a lot of traffic near the factories that we visit, so all the stations we study in this park are relevant in some way or other,” says Veikko Pullinen. 

The tour of the park also provides him and his colleagues with ideas for situations that can be discussed during the next service technician meeting, which TetraPak holds two times a year. 

“One of the things we discuss is workplace security, and TetraPak tells us about accidents that have happened, which must not be allowed to happen again. We now have these realistic examples which we can present at the next meeting,” says Veikko Pullinen, before he and the group join Lasse Heikkinen to walk back to the meeting room.

A similar park is being constructed near Arlanda

Berndt Jonsson has also visited the Rudus safety training park. He is the regional head for the Swedish Construction Federation and the national working environment coordinator for the federation’s project “A safe workplace”. He is also the contact person for Sweden’s first safety training park near Arlanda outside of Stockholm. 

“We spent a long time figuring out what concept to go for, and looked at Rudus safety training park when we carried out our first feasibility study in 2016. Our first Swedish park is based on the Finnish model, but with a Swedish point of view,” says Berndt Jonsson.   

The organisers of that project have worked with different companies in order to identify various problem areas and to create different scenarios for how work tasks can be carried correctly or in the wrong way.

Rudus main

Falling ladders and a loader backing into a car are just a few of the hundreds of the Finnish park's risk scenarios.

Berndt Jonsson hopes the safety training park can also become a place where different occupational groups and players can meet up.

“The construction sector has been missing a common arena for a long time, so I hope the park can become a place where everyone involved in the construction process can meet – from workers to customers and clients. And also those involved in project work, who often have limited opportunities to get practical experience.”

Berndt Jonsson would really like to see the project organisational teams, and all other players who are involved, meet at an early stage of the process.

The new Swedish safety training park will be manned, just like the Finnish one. 

“We will have an executive manager at the park, and facilitators who will lead the training. Some members can bring their own instructors, but they too must follow the basic concept and keep themselves abreast of any changes,” says Berndt Jonsson.

Just like in Finland, the park’s aim is to provide insight which can improve the way people act and change attitudes both on an individual and group level in order to eliminate accidents.

“That’s why I compare this to aviation safety,” says Berndt Jonsson. 

“Staff do what they are supposed to do as part of their routine. We need to get better at doing that in the construction industry. We do have routines, but they must be brought closer to people’s hearts. This is what we want to achieve with the safety training park.”

The group from TetraPak are back in the meeting room to discuss the scenarios and situations they have been looking at in the park. Lasse Heikkinen starts by saying: 

“What did you see? Have you learned anything new? Did you start thinking in new ways about any parts of work? What will you take away from this?”

Veikko Pullinen was eager to ask about issues surrounding the cooperation with emergency services – in addition to his job as a service engineer, he is also a part-time firefighter.

“It would also be good to carry out planned exercises together with them, and also to check out how your own crisis communication works internally. If an accident occurs, who opens the gate for emergency services and explains where the accident has happened?”

Rudus electrics

Melted electrical connections as a result an excessive current draw. This is a real one from a hotel in central Helsinki.

Veikko Pullinen also highlights the importance of using the correct safety equipment – as in the right equipment and clothing for the workplace – and says this is something everyone can do.

“It is important to set a good example, and you do not have to be the boss to do that.”

When everyone has finished talking about their impressions, analysis, thoughts and even some conclusions after the tour of the safety training park, Lasse Heikkinen shows them a video about sleep, food, ergonomics and motion. He says:

“As a company, we cannot force a certain lifestyle on anyone – that is an individual choice. But we can promote a healthy life. We know this is important for safety.”

Everyone seems happy about having had the opportunity to reflect on how they can contribute to improved safety in the workplace. This is something that is often debated by Veikko Pullinen and his colleagues – if something has happened or near-misses. 

“We talk about risks during our breaks and report what we feel is worth reporting to the Finnish boss, who takes it further up in the organisation. We try to maintain a high level of workplace safety, so that we can all return home in the evenings.”

Filed under:
Making accidents "real"

Lasse Heikkinen and Harry Kaponen at Rudus safety training park talk about an accident involving a worker falling down a ventilation shaft which lacked a safety net. He landed on a colleague who died as a result. The accidents are illustrated with mannequins.

Rudus

Rudus portly

A producer of aggregates, ready-mixed concrete and more. It also recycles concrete waste. The mother company CRH produces various materials and products. Head office in Ireland, operates in 32 countries.

Rudus Safety Training Park

Not only the first safety training park in Finland, but in the whole of Europe, according to Rudus. 

Situated in Espoo, west of Helsinki.

Constructed in 2009 and features several stations with over 100 different scenarios.

The park had 3,000 visitors in 2018.

The Swedish Construction Federation

Trade association for 3,600 private construction companies and employers in the Swedish construction sector. 

The Swedish Construction Federation's safety training park

Due to open on 7 October 2019. 

Run by the company The Swedish Construction Federation's safety training park.

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