Former labourer Bob scales new health and safety heights at national housebuilder

13 November 2018

A former labourer who has worked his way up to be health, safety and environmental director at a national housebuilder, says adopting new digital systems will be vital in helping to keep people safe on site.

Bob Wolstenholme Bovis Homes
Bob Wolstenholme, health, safety and environmental director at Bovis Homes 
Bob Wolstenholme, the new director at Bovis Homes, followed his brother-in-law into construction 30 years ago and will now lead a team to improve the housebuilder’s long-term health and safety strategy.

Bob, from Coventry, has worked for car and aerospace companies in the region, moved to the Middle East for eight years, and is now based at the Bovis Homes’ Coleshill office in Warwickshire.

One of his first goals is to roll out a new digital strategy across the business, making it easier for colleagues to understand protocol, contribute to company targets and report any incidents.

He said: “Our work is thoroughly underway in carrying out a reconstruction of our health, safety and environmental system.

"This includes initially setting out the ground rules for the business while working on a three-year strategy plan that we will then develop longer term.

“We are identifying any current gaps in the business between departments and setting up a fit-for-purpose platform that everyone can access. This is about communication and understanding the protocols in place.

“Our one-stop-shop health and safety system means site colleagues can upload any near-misses and accidents. Users will also be able to access a waste management system, where they can view recycling and landfill reports and targets.”

Bob will work closely with the in-house IT team and visit every Bovis Homes location nationwide over the next 12 months, to meet teams and discuss changes to the way the company views and interacts with health, safety and environmental issues.

New information and documents will be uploaded to the company’s intranet, allowing all employees to see operational and digital changes and how these fit with the overall strategy. The first update will be uploaded later this month.

With more than 26 years of management experience, Bob has knowledge of bringing teams together, across departments.

His experience in the United Arab Emirates saw him project manage a £2billion shopping mall on Al Maryah Island. This included splitting his time equally between delivering enabling and infrastructure works and running the health, safety and environment side of the project.

In the UK, he worked at Jaguar Cars to co-ordinate fire, security and ambulance service workers together.

He said by simplifying systems and procedures, staff could see the results of adapting to new models and that one-to-one communication, as well as team camaraderie, were vital to performance.

On leaving Jaguar Cars after 10 years, Bob joined the aerospace industry and started on the shop floor, manufacturing components, before, again, working his way up.

When the machine operator went on holiday, Bob opened the back of the machines on the production line and studied how they worked.

After venturing to the tool room, he adjusted them and within a week had tripled the production on that line. The CEO came down on to the shop floor and, confirming quality standards were the same, promoted Bob to production manager.

Bob Wolstenholme Bovis Homes
Bob Wolstenholme discusses his Bovis Homes appointment 
Bob said his engineering brain, plus his management experience and time out on site, had led to an understanding of the importance of involving all employees in a business.

“I have a bottom-up approach in terms of leadership and the development of our systems,” he said. “The problem is that many who work in health and safety, talk in jargon and we want an end to that. We’re getting feedback from all areas of the business and using that.

“Coming from a construction background, that means we get the input of people on the ground first, as well as our planners and commercial team, and once we get the bones of the procedure then we put it to templates that we are creating, so we have a consistent approach across the group.

“It’s about getting our specialist contractors involved, right from the start, involved with these procedures and working with site management to get the best results.”

He took the role at Bovis Homes as he respected the housebuilder’s strong work ethic and family ethos, knowing that he could help achieve the company’s overall strategy.

“There is a very impressive family-feel to the business,” he said. “That appealed to me about Bovis Homes. I understand the opportunities in quality and standard. The company’s going through a transition and I knew, with my experience, I’d be able to help them get to the next level.”

Bob, who was born in Coventry, has been married to his wife Jackie for 33 years and has four children and 11 grandchildren.