'SCL brings safety into the DNA of projects'

Willemien Bosch is director of Royal NLingenieurs, the Dutch trade association of consultancy, management and engineering firms. The association's site lists its members' overarching, societal themes in a neat row of columns. Building Quality and Safety is at the top left. An important theme! Bosch, following its contribution at the Safety Culture Ladder congress, entered into a discussion with NEN about what the ladder can mean for its industry and what the actual state of safety culture at engineering firms is.

Bosch is originally an architect and has been working at NLingenieurs for just under two years. 'Our members often have an overlap with architectural firms, but we exclusively represent engineering and consultancy firms. That ranges from small to large. Our members also regularly collaborate with architectural firms in the design phase. Incidentally, our working method is also characterised by our presence throughout the chain, from policy development and design to implementation, management and maintenance.'


Many NLingenieurs members are already certified according to the SCL, Bosch says. 'But there is always room for improvement. As an industry, we feel very strongly about increasing safety, which is why we also said 'yes' to the 4 June panel discussion. As far as we are concerned, this involves physical and social safety, in which we have a role to play as chain partners. Standardisation and unity of language are important here. That way, you can talk to each other across the boundaries of your own work about what exactly you mean.'


Willemien Bosch is director of Royal NLingenieurs

Within the engineering consultancy industry, that chain plays an important role when it comes to safety, Bosch explains. 'Because we operate all along the chain, the spectrum of safety issues is very broad. We advise on tenders, work together in consortia and are involved in projects from design to execution.' The focus on safety throughout that chain grew enormously after the collapse of a parking garage under construction in Eindhoven in 2017, Bosch recalls. 'Following the report 'Building on constructive safety' on this incident that was summed up by the Dutch Safety Board, the market itself was addressed on its responsibility to improve safety. From this, the 'Safety in Construction' programme emerged. In that programme, market players work together with clients to improve safety. Unfortunately, we still face incidents, such as the crane accident on the railway near Voorschoten in 2023 and the bridge section accident in Lochem in February this year.' This approximates the importance of tools like the SCL to improve safety. It remains necessary. According to Bosch, the SCL and increasing safety must be viewed from the chain. 'We don't want to just make the design and then let the contractor do his thing. We are jointly responsible for a safe working environment.'

Good direction

Bosch feels that in terms of safety awareness, things are moving in the right direction in her industry. 'Many members are SCL certified. I notice that the subject is alive when I visit our members. You get a pretty quick sense of the state of safety policy, even if it is only because I have to wear my badge visibly or park my car in reverse. So you notice that members are actively concerned with safety. For our large members, SCL certification is more self-evident than for our medium-sized and small members. There, the audits are still perceived as burdensome in some cases and the administrative burden does not always outweigh the benefits. But overall, I have the impression that most members are very positive about SCL. This is also evidenced by the fact that members usually sign up for 100 per cent audits. So they really see the value of it to improve their business processes.'


Bosch says the big advantage of working with projects that require SCL certification is that safety is then seen as a core value of that project. 'It is not something that is 'also just included' or that also has to be ticked off. Safety has to be in the DNA of projects.'


Bosch sees a challenge for the SCL in the exemplary behaviour of clients. When step 3 is prescribed in a tender, it helps if the client itself is at least at that level. Another challenge is training. Training should pay more attention to the fact that a building is actually made. 'Now it is more design-oriented,' Bosch explains. 'The manufacturability and what comes with it is important. Just like management and maintenance. Within the firms, this is now well embedded in internal courses, but it should be given a more prominent place during the study.'


There are also opportunities for agencies to work better together on safety culture. 'Naming more examples of what goes well would be a great start. As would learning from incidents. But the latter is often difficult to share because you have to deal with issues like liability or damage to reputation.' Bosch also sees a greater role for the industry frontrunners in terms of SCL. 'Their visibility may become much greater in my opinion. The 4 June event was a great opportunity to re-emphasise the importance of increasing safety and highlight good examples.'