NEWS June 21, 2022
Taking Health & Safety to Greater Heights.
Karl Sollis, new Global Head of QHSE at Full Circle and Vice Chair of SafetyOn’s Technical Advisory Committee, talks about his vertiginous career and working together for a safe wind industry, for those working at height and on the ground.
Tell us about your new role at Full Circle.
I’m sure people imagine my job is all about keeping our wind turbine technicians safe 70 metres up, and that’s obviously a huge part of it! But there are many different sides to Health & Safety beyond typical preconceptions. It’s a common thread through every aspect of our working lives.
My first focus at Full Circle is to implement the SafetyOn 4th Edition Wind Turbine Safety Rules. These represent a safe system of work for everyone; they were devised around 2006 and have since been developed by the Operational Safety Rules Group, of which I’ve been a member for many years.
The second part of my initial remit is to maintain our QHSE ISO accreditations. Rather than three separate systems for Quality, Health & Safety and Environment, I’m creating a single, integrated QHSE management system. From my point of view, it’s about more than simply making sure you’re legally compliant. I want Full Circle to exceed industry expectations, to set the benchmark in QHSE and wind turbine safety.
Full Circle is a global company, how will your integrated QHSE system apply internationally?
The system is being designed for international use. We’re building an umbrella system and then the specific QHSE laws for each country can be added as appropriate. So we’re across all of the international differences for the countries in which we currently operate, and also for those countries we’ll be moving into.
Have you always worked in renewables?
No, but I’ve always worked at height. I love the challenge it brings, the variety, and of course the view from the office can be pretty spectacular. Prior to renewables, I worked in telecommunications. In 2009 I joined Enercon and spent about ten years as regional and UK Health & Safety Manager, looking after Region 3 ̶ Finland, Norway, Sweden, UK and Ireland ̶ some of our windiest locations! Just over two years ago I moved to Deutsche Windtechnik, UK, as Head of QHSE.
“I’m proud to be part of the solution.”
I came into wind energy because I’m a working at height specialist. But I’ve stayed because I’m proud to be part of the solution. We’re very privileged to be part of a growth industry and one that makes a difference for the future.
So, why Health & Safety?
Apart from working at height, there are a lot of sides to QHSE on the ground that I find fascinating. I enjoy learning about law, the training side, and problem solving, which is rewarding. People want to know how they can achieve their goals, but how to be compliant and safe in what they’re doing. You have to think a bit differently to most people about how you manage risk, and find solutions to solve problems safely. No two days, no two phone calls, are the same. To me, it’s a vocation.
What changes have you seen to regulations in your career?
The formation of SafetyOn, the industry’s Health & Safety organisation, has been a massive, positive step change. Prior to its formation, companies were interpreting regulations in their own silos. Now we work together, as an industry. We communicate better, support each other, and learn from each other. We have solid, industry-level statistics so we can approach the Health & Safety Executive as one industry body, backed up by reliably sourced facts. I’m privileged to be Vice Chair of SafetyOn’s Technical Advisory Committee and Full Circle have a strong presence across the organisation.
Just how hazardous is it to work on a wind turbine?
Our industry is exposed to at least three of the five high-risk activities outlined by the Health & Safety Executive: we work at height, with live electricity, and in areas of restricted access. But our technicians have fantastic risk awareness and training. If you ask a technician if they think climbing a turbine is high risk, they’ll probably say no. It’s all about your perception of risk, and having confidence in your team and your equipment, and that confidence relies on having top-notch Health & Safety at all levels of the business.
What makes a good Health & Safety Manager?
A calm head, a problem-solving mindset and an eye for detail. Being able to gain the relevant information, as quickly as possible, and in the most succinct and concise way, to make an informed decision. You’re often one of the first to be informed of an incident, so people are relying on you to remain calm, and be able to problem solve under pressure and give clear, concise instructions.
Looking forward, what are your ambitions for Full Circle?
Obviously, to be the independent service provider of choice and to see us move into lots of new technologies. For my part, I want to make Full Circle the industry byword for QHSE.
What difference does Wind Turbine Safety make in the competitive landscape?
For our customers, wind turbine safety key: you want to ensure your turbine is being maintained in a safe manner. If there is an incident, it’s the turbine brand that’s in the spotlight, so great Health & Safety standards are a huge benefit to the, service providers and Asset Owners, both operationally and reputationally.
Ultimately Health & Safety is about the safety of the people doing the work and the safety of the work itself. There’s a term we often use: unsafe acts create unsafe conditions. If people get hurt on the job due to poor processes, it affects the work pipeline, then there’s pressure on the other technicians. They may get tired, or rush. The knock-on effects are unthinkable for our clients.
“Health & Safety is ingrained in every facet of life.”
From a Full Circle point of view, we pride ourselves on our speed of response. So good Health & Safety is integral to that by minimising potential delays. On both sides, time is money. If a turbine stops, whether a single farmer or large utility, their energy and revenue generation stops. But if we don’t get there soon enough, we must compensate the customer. Health & Safety affects every layer of the business.
How do you get keep someone safe at 70+ metres?
Health & Safety is intertwined in all our training. Wind turbine safety is all about feeling safe. Having confidence in the equipment and knowing how to use it. Knowing that the organisation cares and making sure people feel empowered to speak up. Ensuring they’ve got the right organisation to train them. That’s what gives them the confidence to climb. Trust in the equipment, and the team behind that equipment. That comes down to having a culture and a system that together empower people to do the right things, in the right way, at the right time.
Health & Safety is a continuous thread that runs through our working lives. It taps into company culture and human nature. At SafetyOn, and in the industry, we talk a lot about ‘safety behaviours’. There’s a lot of psychology in this role, understanding why people have certain behaviours and how we encourage the good ones. My job is all about understanding, guiding and building safety behaviours for organisations and individuals.
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