With Mental Health high on everyone’s agenda, it’s refreshing to see individuals go beyond talking about it, to acting on it.

Launched by SHP in 2020, the Trailblazers are health and safety professionals who are going above and beyond to make a positive difference – in some cases within their own organisation, in other cases more widely in the community.

The Trailblazer in Workplace Wellbeing Award recognises individuals who did the most to contribute to people thriving at work, prioritising employees’ wellbeing and mental health.

In a close-run final race Fiona O’Donnell, Global HSE Strategy Lead at Jacobs took the flag but Steven Boon, Managing Director at EPD Insulation Group was surging for the line to achieve a ‘Highly Commended’ award.

EPD Insulation Group is a main supplier of insulation in East Anglia, and many of Steve’s employees are on construction sites delivering their products. The workforce is 80% male, with predominantly male LGV drivers delivering the selected items to many locations in the Eastern and Southern regions including Central London.

Three years ago, Steve noticed the need for mental health support, and although he trained selected staff in mental health first aid, he felt it wasn’t enough, and decided to offer free mental health support to his employees through a qualified outside practitioner to aid anyone who may be able to benefit from it.

The practitioner is available to meet with every employee both male and female to find out anonymously how they feel about their employment, and how they feel about themselves. The first meeting had a 98% up take and is aimed at how the company is doing with the welfare of its staff. If any individual feels they require a second, third, or fourth meeting, this is then aimed at the individuals needs and not the company, on a one to one basis.

He has put forward an innovative program that will produce better mental health support and understanding in the workplace. Any follow up support requested through the employee via the practitioner will be provided for the individual. This has been paid for by the company, and time given off from work to attend.

The results when complete, as a percentage, will be shared with the employees overall. The model used – as it’s already being seen as successful – can be shared with any company on request, on how EPD Insulation Group managed to achieve all 130 employees going through this innovative program.

Steve has recognised that a happy, healthy workforce does have a positive long-term impact on his business, including a positive work life balance for all, seeing that all driver working under pressures may suffer stress, but understands they are a lone worker. His fear was that this could lead to the over thinking of personal problems whilst driving, lack of awareness on the roads, and loss of concentration that may impact on others safety both on the road, or on site.

He has placed every manager on an IOSH managing safely course, to actively encourage a better understanding of what hazards and risks are within the workplace, giving clear instructions to them to understand the working H&S model of plan, do, check, and act when required.

A new approach to safety has been developed for staff, and Steve has invested in the employees training with in-house FLT, Moffett training and a new training manager, room, and location to provide a safer workforce. This includes a two-week induction training programme for new drivers even if qualified and re-evaluates all drivers yearly with an assessment of practical skills, which is well above the normal standard. Additionally, they re-assess any driver who has damaged any part of a vehicle, or accident no matter how small.

Going above and beyond the required ‘norm’ EPD, through Steve Boon, also sponsors individuals and teams financially to participate in sport, and the wider community by sponsoring local events. Steve said “Coming from a working class background our family was tight. We grew a family run business from scratch and realise the privileged family opportunities we now have through our endeavours. We want to pass some of that on to help individuals and communities where we can.”