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Culture over Complacency: Developing an Environmental Health and Safety Culture

2022 marks my 27th year working in Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), with the last seven spent working with SIRO. Over the years, I’ve completed qualifications to Masters levels and attained my Chartered practitioner status. Allied with practical experience, these have given me significant expertise on developing successful organisational environmental, health and safety management systems and practices.

SIRO began its journey in 2015, as a new company, a joint venture between ESB and Vodafone, rolling out a completely new 100% fibre broadband network. From the off, Environmental Health and Safety is something that we have placed a paramount importance on.

“SIRO is an Industry Leader on Environmental Health and Safety.”

SIRO is acutely aware that human interaction and organisations are dynamic and ever changing, diffusing between several layers of interaction and influence, all of which affect perceptions, meaning, values, attitudes, norms and thus behaviour; and that one unsafe behaviour can significantly change an organisations’ record.

Today, there is much talk within organisations and businesses about “culture.” Within occupational and environmental management, the importance of having a positive safety culture is much highlighted. Culture is the evolving result of the continuing negotiations about values between the members of that organisation and with its environment. It includes norms, ideas and factors which prompt behaviour and attitudes towards the organisation. Is culture the single determinant of all aspects of safety and the organisation of safety practices? Unfortunately, no. It is just one, but important, part of a wider paradigm of factors required to establish a successful management system. ISO standards, in particular ISO 45001 & ISO 14001, refer to this paradigm of factors as an organisation’s “context”. To develop successful systems, there is no singular, defining handbook, each organisation must determine their own, suited to their own context.


The Key Elements driving SIRO’s Environmental, Health &Safety (EHS) managements systems


Our Heritage

SIRO is a joint venture between ESB and Vodafone, with both companies having well established management systems. At SIRO, we took the best from both organisations’ approaches.

“We considered the complexity of utilising existing electricity infrastructure to construct & operate a 100% fibre-to-the-building broadband network, and successfully created management systems specific to SIRO”. 

SIRO’s Health & Safety Context

As an “essential service,” SIRO’s workplace is complex and the risks real. SIRO as a wholesale operator successfully completes and controls, high-risk works across a variety of networks – overhead, underground, Core, and Metro. This is in addition to navigating between a myriad of existing overlapping utility networks (e.g., gas, sewage,) in a congested urban underground landscape.

SIRO’s Environmental Context

SIRO is rolling out one of Ireland’s greenest telecoms networks, with a strong focus on environmental sustainability. Through using the existing ESBN electricity infrastructure, we have adapted circular economy principles. Our fibre network is significantly more energy efficient and much less polluting vs. copper or cable broadband. SIROs fibre broadband network is already underpinning:

  • A reduction in national carbon footprint due to working from home and reduced commuting
  • More sustainable and balanced development, supporting people to live and work in their communities
  • Contributing to improved work-life balance
  • Reducing in pandemic risks through facilitating greater access to online goods and services

So, what are the main elements of SIRO’s successful EHSMS management systems?

These are broadly categorised as:

  • Leadership & Participation
  • Risk & Impact Assessment
  • Setting & Enforcing High Control Standards
  • Competence (Approvals & Authorisations)
  • Integrating EHSMS within business management systems

Leadership & Participation:

  • Having robust worker participation and organisational leadership is vital to the success of all aspects of a business, HSEQ is no different.
  • SIRO’s HSEQ Department have direct line of authority from, and communication with the CEO and the SIRO Board.
  • SIRO’s Senior Leadership & Management Teams are accountable and responsible for HSEQ within their functions.
  • Worker participation is strong and there is a shared responsibility within SIRO from Leadership level throughout the whole organisation.

Risk & Impact Assessment:

  • Planning and organisation are also vital: the need to identify hazards, environmental aspects, complete risk and impact assessment should form core elements of any activity. Through planning, SIRO has devised specific control measures and standards to reduce or eliminate risks and impacts posed.

Setting & Enforcing High Control Standards:

The setting and enforcing of high HSEQ standards is vital; aim as high as you can reach. Make it about the best available technology/approach and not the ‘cowboy’ corner-cutting approach. An organisation that aims for the legislative minimum will always find they fall short.

SIRO as an industry leader – sets and enforces high environmental, health and safety standards.


From experience there are two key aspects to competence an organisation must get right, and both must align with the level of risk involved:

  1. Approval: The assessment and engagement of competent contractors
  2. Authorisations: The training, assessment and authorisation of worker activity based on levels of risk.

Integrating EHSMS within business management systems:

HSEQ is not an add on, it can never be if an organisation is to be an industry leader. HSEQ integrate into all aspects of thoughts, change, and actions across our business functions.

So, does SIRO have a positive “culture”?

I believe so. At SIRO we have put in place all the key elements to ensure a positive H&S culture exists, is prioritised and can continue to grow.

HSEQ is always evolving, and organisational paradigms are ever shifting in our dynamic work environment. Management systems must continually evolve and improve to respond to these dynamics.