United Utilities graduates take home CEO Challenge award for boosting process safety

01 Nov 2022

A team of graduates tasked with improving process safety at United Utilities have scooped the top accolade in the company’s annual CEO Challenge. They were recognised for their efforts to implement best practice, streamline performance reporting, and strengthen the company’s process safety culture. The six deliverables they designed have now been embedded into the business.

The annual CEO Challenge gives teams of graduates a different problem to investigate and encourages them to use their skills and learning, and take advantage of the support and experience of colleagues, to find innovative solutions.

This year’s graduate Team 4 – Fiona Fairey, Francesca McKendrick, Derek Briggs, Martin Letts, Syed Ramis Ali, Elena Downes and Cat Spence – set out to answer the question “How can we better use processes, people and technology to improve process safety at United Utilities?”

Over the past 10 months they have been using their degree learning, hands-on experience, and collaboration to come up with ways to address process safety challenges within United Utilities.

Overall winners 2.jpgThey quickly saw an opportunity to boost the sharing of process safety data and experience within the company, and developed a dashboard to bring together information from different areas so that it would be more reliable and easier to access. They coupled this with in-house sessions to give colleagues the chance to speak about their safety work, so teams can learn from each other.

To further bolster the sharing of best practice, the graduate team branched out to the water industry and other sectors, including energy and aviation, to understand what else is being done to avoid catastrophic incidents.

Their other activities involved a virtual reality training programme that immersed colleagues into an incident scenario and an awareness and engagement campaign that reached colleagues right across the company.

As well as the overall award, Team 4 also picked up the ‘Reaching far and wide award’ for the extent of their engagement activities with colleagues.

Business Analyst Elena Downes, who led Team 4 in the challenge, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to take the overall title in this year’s CEO Challenge. The team has worked so well together and showed real confidence in going out to colleagues and external contacts, so it was lovely to hear the amazing feedback from the judging panel.

“Staying safe at work has always been a priority to United Utilities, so it was a big ask for us to increase awareness even further and find ways that the business and employees can do more to keep everyone safe.

“The momentum on process safety won’t stop here – several of the tools we trialled are being embedded into the business, and we’ll all continue to play our part to ensure we and our colleagues get home safe and well.”

Kevin Fowlie, Engineering and Capital Delivery Director at United Utilities, said: “All our graduate teams did a fantastic job in this year’s challenge and the judges had a really tough time choosing a winner.

“Ultimately, team 4 shone through not only because of their innovative ideas and willingness to try new things, but for how they brought them to life across the organisation, engaging with colleagues and even influencing other businesses to commit to playing their part in putting process safety first.

“We’re really proud of all our graduates and thank them for their passion and commitment to the CEO Challenge. They all have bright futures ahead and we’re delighted that they’re part of United Utilities at the start of their careers.”

All five of the graduate teams collected a category award for their work – Team 1 (Carbon) won the ‘Multi-AMP impact award’, Team 2 (Taste and Odour) won the ‘Combining innovation award’, Team 3 (CSO Monitoring) won the ‘Best connection to strategic programmes award’ and team 5 (Water ReUUse) won the ‘Best community outreach and impact award’.

To find out more about graduate roles at United Utilities, visit: www.unitedutilities.com/corporate/careers/graduates/