Forster Roofing

Last reviewed on 24/01/2013 14:11

Healthy Working Lives support has helped Forster Roofing reduce accident reporting rates to zero, with their holistic approach to health, safety and wellbeing earning their Chairman a prestigious award from Scotland’s Institute of Directors. 

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Winning an Institute of Director’s award in 2012, John Forster ascribes to a ‘deep and heartfelt commitment’ to health, safety and wellbeing demonstrated over more than 20 years since establishing Forster Roofing in 1990. He credits support from Healthy Working Lives – who sponsored the IoD award for Health, Safety and Wellbeing – with enabling the company to ‘move on to the next level’.

‘Last year we won an award specific to the house-building sector in Scotland, which was wonderful. To be recognised by the IoD awards is very different because that’s industry-wide,’ he explains.

Forster Group employs 107 people and provides roofs to almost one in five of Scotland’s new houses serving most of the national and major regional house builders.

In 2011, the Homes for Scotland judges were impressed by Forster’s ‘genuine and innovative attempt to change the culture of a company’ when the company added the Quality Award for Health, Safety and Wellbeing to their Healthy Working Lives bronze award.

Beyond compliance…

Healthy Working Lives brought everything together and allowed us to move on to the next level. John Forster - Chairman





‘If we take health and safety – initially that started off as a desire to be compliant. Almost immediately that became compliance above the typical standards that existed within the industry. We wanted to operate at a level above what was generally accepted,’ says John.

In 2004, the growing company started to explore the benefits of working with Investors in People and Healthy Working Lives as part of its desire to adopt a more strategic and structured approach.

‘Back in 1994, we took our guys off site for a full day’s health and safety awareness training – construction companies didn’t do that at the time. But with Healthy Working Lives input, we’ve since introduced health screening – simple cholesterol or blood pressure checks as part of those days.

‘There were things like that we wanted to do, but maybe weren’t sure how to do. Healthy Working Lives brought everything together and allowed us to move on to the next level.’


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…to staff wellbeing and customer satisfaction

In recent years, the benefits of taking a wider view have become apparent. ‘We can’t beat the fact that we work outside in poor weather, but early on, we saw that if we provided the guys with better kit, they could get out and feel happier, they’d be healthier and of course they’d work more effectively.

‘Our experience shows that a safer, healthier working environment produces better work, greater customer satisfaction and better financial results.’

Campaigns on sun awareness have tackled the rarer issue of Scotland’s pleasant weather, while the company’s training focus has evolved to include mental health awareness and sessions on drug and alcohol use.

‘You realise – you can relate your desire to reduce RIDDOR* next to your desire to help people live better lives by balancing work and leisure or having flexible working arrangements. ‘It’s more about ‘wellbeing’, which is a really good word. We used to talk about ‘health and safety’ but ‘wellbeing’ is really the magical bit.’

*Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995.


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Growing while investing

Despite the economic downturn, the company maintained their investment in health, safety and wellbeing, and have seen an increase in annual turnover of 63 per cent over the past two years – and a business poised to take advantage of the upturn.

John maintains a significant commitment to raising standards in the construction industry. As past Chairman, he continues to support the Scottish House Builders Health and Safety Forum and has represented Scotland on the UK Strategic Forum for Construction’s health and safety task group.

‘We do those things because we have a deep, heartfelt commitment to trying to better individual circumstances and the performance of the industry. Those might sound like grand ambitions but I’m a great believer that it’s possible to achieve results from small beginnings.

‘Sometimes you need to go outwith the business to get a framework, and that’s where I’d recommend Healthy Working Lives because it helps you think holistically. They took our approach to health, safety and wellbeing, helped us make sense of our diverse activities and enhanced them,’ he adds.

Award-winning focus on health, safety and wellbeing

In the year leading up to winning the 2012 IoD Director Award for Health, Safety and Wellbeing, the group’s major achievements included implementation of a bespoke safety management system and completion of a three year objective to reduce RIDDOR rates to zero.

John’s keen to stress that this represents a collective effort.

‘I know my name’s against the award but in reality, it’s the team achievement. ‘It’s recognition of a team that has worked passionately over many years who deliver something very special within our own organisation and all the other organisations we work with.’


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