Barr Retail

Last reviewed on 24/01/2013 11:58

Barr Retail is a sector of Barr Construction, a company with 295 employees. It operates in most areas of the construction industry with approximately 84 employees in the Retail Sector.

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Barr Retail was looking for ways to improve the health and wellbeing of staff in both the office and on site. A colleague in a sister company recommended The Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives as they had seen a real difference in their own workplace since working with the Centre.

The solution


Accident rates have dropped throughout our business Mary Walls Retail Unit Process Manager


The first step suggested by the Healthy Working Lives Adviser was to conduct a staff survey. The results confirmed that long working hours and stress were having an impact on people’s lives in and out of work, so Barr Retail set out to reverse the trend.

Barr Retail held a l​aunch event to introduce Healthy Working Lives, with representatives from the British Heart Foundation, smoking cessation, and other health improvement organisations.

They then offered a series of measures to help improve the health of staff, both in the office and on the construction sites.

  • free health checks, with planned follow ups
  • healthy eating
  • diabetes and breast cancer awareness campaigns
  • low salt campaign
  • drug and alcohol awareness

Reduced accident rates

‘When I say that the accident rate has dropped, I don’t just mean in our offices – it’s dropped throughout our business,’ says Mary Walls, Retail Unit Process Manager for Barr Retail.

The company has seen an overall drop in accidents of 33 per cent in the last year. In the past two years, there have been no major accidents, and none that resulted in an absence of more than three days. The most notable drop has been in the number of accidents occurring during handling, lifting and carrying – down 60 per cent in 2011 on the previous two years.

While it’s difficult to attribute this decrease solely to Healthy Working Lives, Mary is sure that the campaigns have played a significant role. Since its involvement with Healthy Working Lives, the company has also won industry recognition in the form of a five star award from British Safety Council.

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Change in attitude

These health initiatives have also helped Barr Retail to increase staff engagement, and improve communication across the different areas of the business. Mary says, ‘There has been a major change in attitudes since we started the Healthy Working Lives campaigns, with people keen to hear what we’re doing next’.

Before the Healthy Working Lives campaigns began, staff tended to be more isolated.’ The health campaigns have been a source of fun in the office, allowing people from different teams to engage and work together.

‘Another real benefit I have found is team-building,’ Mary says. ‘I’m sure that team building helps in anybody’s working life, and it helps to decrease stress levels too.’

Enhanced relationships with customers

The work that Barr Construction has done with Healthy Working Lives allows it to demonstrate a clear commitment to the health and wellbeing of its staff.

Barr Retail has used examples of good practice to cement relationships with some of its most important customers, including Tesco, Sainsbury and Waitrose.

‘Our main clients task you with looking after your workforce,’ Mary says. We have championed this, and so we have pushed ahead and our contractors are now doing the same thing.’

This work has also helped with other clients, as the evidence gathered for Healthy Working Lives allows Barr Retail to demonstrate that it takes good care of its employees’ wellbeing.

‘We’ve started to see in the last year that tenders coming in are starting to ask what you’re doing for your workforce, and whether they have a decent work-life balance,’ says Mary.

‘We think that it’s made a real difference.’

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