With 86 maintenance stations and hangers across the globe, the engineering arm of British Airways (BA) is a highly complex and sophisticated work environment, where skilled employees carry out essential work to maintain the company’s aircraft. British Airways Engineering has under its care some 280 aircraft, and deals with every engineering activity from basic daily maintenance through to the more specialised composite repairs, hydraulics and even in-flight instrumentation such as flight navigation computers.

BA carries out this maintenance primarily at Heathrow but has bases at Gatwick, Cardiff and Glasgow as well as its world wide stations. BA employs over 4800 employees in engineering across the globe who handle around 500 chemicals on a daily basis.

The Challenge

Stephen Glass, Senior Manager for Health, Safety & Environment, British Airways, says: “Working in a very competitive environment it is important to have the right tools for each job, and this includes Health and Safety tools such as Sypol CMS.

“We need to ensure not only that we meet the requirements but that we have a system that is effective and easy to use.

“Engineers working on aircraft in the hangers can be using the same chemical in a wide range of different ways. We needed a way of ensuring that staff could access accurate and practical guidance on how to use chemicals safely in each of the many varied work environments”.

Putting safety first

It was BA’s commitment to always put safety first and protect staff that prompted the search for an independent expert to advise on health and safety solutions to fit their complex needs. BA was impressed by the simplicity and effectiveness of Sypol CMS, an online COSHH risk management tool.

Sypol CMS is an online tool which helps businesses manage hazardous substances safely and comply with the COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) regulations. It works as a live database of ready-to-use COSHH assessments for many substances used in the workplace with clear instructions on how to handle them safely depending on the specific exposure scenario. Customers can request new assessments for new substances and CMS also provides real time updates of any new information to add to the database or changes in legislation, providing immediate access to the latest information and allowing the customers to effectively manage change out to the workforce.

BA purchased Sypol CMS for all of its engineering arms across the UK and contracted the company to run a series of training sessions for all staff on how to use the system. David Tubb British Airways Quality Engineer says: “Sypol CMS is responsive and easy to use. It has changed the focus of COSHH and freed our staff to focus on safe implementation and not on assessment. Engineers using the same chemical but in different ways are now easily provided job specific COSHH assessments allowing them to work safely with the chemicals they use and focus on ensuring safe use as per the assessments”.

Practical training

A series of training sessions was held to show all staff how to use Sypol CMS and to enable those responsible for health and safety to train new staff as part of inductions and help with any queries. Key staff were allocated ‘editor’ roles for Sypol CMS, and they received more in-depth training so they could train others. The editors role is to collate all the chemicals in their area, look up current assessments in the Sypol CMS system, apply it to their area if possible or raise new assessments for their particular requirements.

Managers were also trained on the requirements of COSHH legislation and how to use Sypol CMS to maintain compliance. Editors have access to add in chemicals to the system and all staff have access to the system to review assessments of chemicals and instructions on how to use them for their particular task and area of work.

David Tubb says: “The actual training on how to use Sypol CMS was only one hour because it is so straightforward. Sypol held a workshop afterwards for questions and discussions and the feedback from staff was that they felt confident they could use the system straight away”.

A continued partnership

“Within the first two months of Sypol CMS being introduced, it received rave reviews from staff” says David Tubb. “We now have more cover and protection for staff at the heart of our engineering operations and each employee can now flag up any potential issue immediately via Sypol CMS. It is a system that staff feel they ‘own.’ As they now have access to instructions for the use of chemicals in every work scenario, the emphasis is on each employee to take personal responsibility for using the system to ensure they carry out their job roles safely”.

Stephen Glass continues: “Implementing the chemical management system from Sypol has simplified our processes and gives our engineers access globally over the world wide web. Employee engagement levels have been high and our engineers across the UK and across our network have been empowered to drive best practice in chemical management”.

BA is now looking at rolling out Sypol CMS for the wider business, with an emphasis on helping corporate safety managers fulfil their roles effectively and take best practice in health and safety forward.

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