The 30th National Irish Safety Organisation/Northern Ireland Safety Group (NISO/NISG) Annual Safety awards took place on November 4, 2021, at a special ceremony in Killarney at which the Supreme Safety award winner for 2021, sponsored by Irving Oil Whitegate Refinery, was announced as Designer Group. 

Highly valued

The Supreme Safety award is presented to the organisation that has shown consistently good or continuously improving health and safety performance over a number of years and an outstanding contribution to occupational safety, health and welfare during the previous year. The awards are highly valued and regarded among health and safety professionals throughout the island of Ireland.

Under normal circumstances the All Ireland Safety awards gala dinner is a large event with more than 600 people in attendance but this year, due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, a scaled-down ceremony in keeping with the regulations proceeded at 60% of the hotel capacity.

Other awards presented on the night include the Safety Representative of the Year award in association with the Cpl Institute. The winner of the Safety Representative of the Year award for 2021 was John Higgins from Colas Ireland Ltd. and the runner-up prize was awarded to JP Moloney from Irish Rail. 

The Healthy Workplace award, supported by Healthy Ireland, was won by Cork City Council. The Healthy Workplace award recognises the commitment of workplaces who promote health and wellbeing as a core element of the health and safety agenda. 

The Occupational Health award, supported by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI), was won by Bon Secours hospital, Cork. 

The Driving for Work award was won by Actavo (Ireland) Ltd. The Driving for Work award requires entrants to demonstrate evidence of the following in relation to driving for work: policy, planning, practice, measuring performance and reviewing performance.

The awards, which demonstrate the positive and proactive culture of safety management in organisations, were supported by BioThrive, Health and Safety Authority, Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland, Healthy Ireland and Irving Oil Whitegate Refinery.

The 57th annual NISO Health and Safety conference, which preceded the safety awards ceremony, was sponsored by Ayrton Group and Intel Ireland Ltd. (Gold sponsors); Glenveagh Properties PLC, Jones Engineering Group and PM Group (Silver sponsors); DB Schenker (Bronze sponsors) and Portwest.

Harry Galvin, NISO president, presented awards to organisations from all around the island of Ireland. The Gold award was won by Weltec Engineering Ltd., the Silver award by Jones Engineering Group and the Bronze award by Bon Secours hospital, Dublin.

Showcase your commitment to health and safety

Ashleigh Birkett, chair, NISG, addressing the audience remotely by video, commended the entrants for submitting such high calibre entries again this year. Ashleigh congratulated all those who achieved awards, noting that the Safety Awards are a great way to enhance your organisation and to showcase your commitment to health and safety.

Damien English TD, Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, showed his support for the “tremendous work of NISO and NISG towards the promotion of workplace health and safety” in a video message. Minister English also congratulated the award winners and commended everyone for participating. He noted the work that NISO/NISG and its members have done in implementing public health policies and procedures to minimise the spread of Covid-19 and noted that these efforts are appreciated by government and the public in general.

The Excellence in Safety Award, which is presented to organisations that consistently achieved a high standard safety award for more than 15 years, representing their continuous commitment to health and safety in their organisation, was won by Actavo (Ireland) Ltd.

A number of Exceptional High Achiever awards were presented to organisations that consistently achieved a high standard safety award for more than 10 years, representing their continuous commitment to health and safety in their organisation. Recipients of this award include Acacia Facilities Management Ltd., Colas (Bitumen Emulsions, Contracting and Chemoran) West, Designer Group, Fingal County Council, GMC Utilities Group Ltd., John Paul Construction, John Sisk and Son (Holdings) Ltd., Jones Engineering Group, PM Group, TLI Group Ltd., W & H Alexander Ltd. and Weltec Engineering Ltd.

Expressions of interest for the 2022 safety awards can be emailed to Register with NISO/NISG to receive details of the 2022 awards when available.

The full list of awards winners for 2021 can be found at:

Designer Group

Founded in Dublin three decades ago on its electrical engineering excellence, Designer Group is now an international provider of choice for innovative and sustainable electrical and mechanical engineering solutions and proud winner of this years’ National Irish Safety Organisation (NISO) Supreme Safety Award. This award is the highest accolade awarded annually at this very prestigious event.

The NISO awards programme demonstrates the positive and proactive culture of health and safety management in organisations and recognises businesses that achieve excellent standards.

Michael Stone, Group CEO, said: “Health and safety is, and always will be, our number one priority at Designer Group. It is a fundamental part of our core values which shape the identity of every level of our organisation. We are all delighted by this remarkable news, and exceptionally proud of this significant achievement, which highlights our position as industry leaders, driving outstanding health, safety, welfare and wellbeing performance.”

Designer Group also received the NISO Exceptional High Achiever Award for consistently achieving a high standard safety award for more than ten years running. Shane Blaney, HSQE director said that, “these awards are highly valued and regarded among health and safety professionals and it is a tremendous endorsement to the health, safety and wellbeing culture that Designer Group has fostered. We owe a huge thank you to all our supply chain partners, our clients, and above all, our DG team for supporting us to deliver excellence, and we congratulate all the other award winners”.

Derek Murphy, head of environmental, health and safety, at Designer Group, writes that “one thing that the past two years have shown us all, is that the health, safety and wellbeing of all staff and subcontractors must be at the core of every company’s operations.

Designer Group has implemented a behavioural safety code, to motivate and recognise workers who have gone beyond the call of duty.” The business is a strong advocate for behavioural based and psychological safety programmes and believes that focusing on peoples’ behaviours is fundamental to the health and safety success of any organisation.

“The BBS programmes are integral to our strategy of ‘zero harm’ across the business. With this in mind, we have expedited our investments into digital technologies, to encourage proactive communication across our sites,” said Murphy. 

Focusing on team diversity, celebrating excellence and investing in people’s careers, Designer Group’s enduring success is shaped around its values – safe, trust, respect, challenge and deliver – which provide the foundation for growth, inseparably woven into the fabric of the organisations mission and strategy.

Michael Stone explained that “as Designer Group embarks on its 2025 strategy, it is refreshing and recommitting with real purpose to the Designer Group values. First and foremost, we structure our work environment, so that every person feels safe, enabled to create their best work and achieve their maximum potential. We work smartly, take care of our team, and have fun in order to ensure the sustainability and success of our business and the wellbeing of our people”.

Looking ahead, he added: "Designer Group will continue to invest heavily in its people, upskilling our employees and committing to resourcing technological advancements and sustainable developments. By doing this, we will have better project cooperation, compliance, teamwork, workplace efficiencies, and continue to improve the service offering to our clients.” 

Actavo Group

We lead by example, said Global EHS and IT director, Actavo Group, Willie Ryan: “Our commitment to the health and safety of our people, contractors, clients, customers and members of the public comes from the top down.”

Actavo is delighted to have won three prestigious awards at the All Ireland Occupational Health & Safety Awards 2021.

“We are particularly proud of winning the Driving for Work Award, which requires entrants to demonstrate evidence of policy, planning, practice, measuring and reviewing performance, in relation to driving for work,” said Ryan. “We invest heavily in driver safety, training, monitoring and technology across all our locations globally and acknowledge safe drivers with monthly awards.”

Actavo also won NISO/ NISG awards for ‘Excellence in Safety’ and ‘Utility Services’, which is testament to the consistent and rigorous approach we take to health and safety across all our operations.

“Aligned to our core value, ‘Live Safety’ we believe that safety is everyone’s responsibility, from the CEO, to all our people either out in the field or supporting operations in the office delivering our services every day.

“Led by a dedicated EHS (environment, health and safety) team, we implement a variety of initiatives throughout our operations. At the heart of our Zero Harm philosophy is the principle that everybody should work safe and go home safe every day while protecting the environment in which we operate. Our initiatives include our 8 Golden Rules, HEART (Help Eliminate All Risks Today) programme, and dedicated Fleet Safety training, use of technology and monthly awards.

“Our people appreciate that at Actavo, when we say we ‘Live Safety’, we really mean it. All our teams are on board with this ethos and the practices that go with it, to ensure not only their own safety, but that of their work colleagues, customers and the general public.”

Actavo is an international strategic operations partner, offering a multitude of services across different sectors. In operation over 50 years, the company has its roots in a number of businesses that came together in 2015 under the Actavo brand, and now operates in over 100 locations, including Ireland, the UK, the Caribbean and Middle East.

In Ireland, Actavo is best known for telecom network (survey, design, build, maintenance) and in-home services, including long-running contracts with Sky, SIRO and Virgin Media.

Actavo also supplies site accommodation and modular buildings to the construction, education, healthcare and commercial sectors; provides industrial access and maintenance to large construction, facilities and energy projects; delivers civil engineering works projects for many local authorities; and is the leading supplier of event infrastructure for large and small events nationwide.

Group CEO Brian Kelly said: “Congratulations to the EHS team for leading the focus on health and safety at Actavo, and to all our people who ‘live safety’ every day in their roles throughout our operations. In particular, we are very proud of the improvements we have achieved in driver safety in recent years across all our locations, as already recognised earlier this year by the RoSPA Fleet Safety gold medal."

Willie Ryan

NISO Gold and Exceptional High Achiever Award: Weltec Engineering 

Weltec Engineering Ltd was honoured this year at the 2021 NISO Awards by being awarded the Gold Award along with an Exceptional High Achiever Award. This result follows other successful years where Weltec attained Bronze Awards (2016 & 2020), the President’s Award for large sized organisation (2017 and 2019) along with numerous other awards over the past 10 years.

The Weltec Engineering team clearly demonstrates their ongoing commitment to further developing their health and safety systems, improving health and wellbeing resources for all who work for us and to striving for Safety Excellence at all levels within the organisation.

Receiving the Gold Award recognises all the hard work that has been carried out and the dedication that is given to continual improvement. This growth and development is key to maintaining the success that Weltec Engineering experiences and to ensuring a happy, healthy and productive workforce.

As we all know the workplace is an ever-changing landscape that requires constant attention and review to ensure that our colleagues are provided with a safe work environment. In order to ensure that Weltec Management are kept up to speed with issues that arise the company operates as Safety Observation Reporting system that all employees are encouraged to partake in.

The actionable items raised in Safety Observation Reports are posted on each site and tracked on a 'You Said/We Did' board that is visible to all employees. This process assures employees that Weltec Management are listening to their concerns and are addressing them.

Covid-19 is another challenge that we were faced with in 2020 and we had to be innovative to ensure that we could operate our worksites safely. As part of this process Weltec tried to reduce physical interactions wherever possible by introducing QR Code Covid-19 questionnaires and Close Contact tracing logs.

Guidance documents such as Restricted Movement/Isolation Period charts and information on what actions to take for various scenarios were developed and issued to all appropriate personnel. This was often done by utilising a web text system which ensured that we could communicate effectively will all Weltec employees and address their concerns and questions.

Over the past two years Weltec have also put a number of new initiatives in place to protect our valuable workforce including, but not limited to the following, Powered Air Purifying Respirators for all welding activities, a standardised permitting system to ensure consistency across all sites, upgraded first aid equipment on all sites, revision of EHS documentation to a format that is more easily understood, introduction of auditing software to simplify the process and provide safety officers with more time to be physically present on site and the use of software that allows the digital signing of documents. 

Gerard O’Leary explained: “At Weltec we strive every day to ensure the workplace is a safe environment for all our people and those we work alongside. 

"We believe that safety innovation comes from individuals and teams and we continuously and actively encourage all our staff members to provide their input and point of view for increased safety performance.

"We believe that diverse perspectives lead to broader and more informed thinking and this allied to our culture of continuous improvement sets Weltec apart as a leader in health and safety management.”

Over the next year Weltec will also introduce a new web-based Safety Management System that will incorporate all elements of site based EHS management along with a Learning Management System that will allow the company to provide online training to all employees relating to our policies, procedures and systems. New experiences and exciting times lie ahead for Weltec Engineering.

Above L-R: James Hackett, EHS director, and Vivienne Walsh, senior administrator

Weltec looks forward to many more years of partnering with NISO and participating in the annual occupational health and safety awards.