Striving to be the best

“It’s amazing how things can improve when you really put your mind to it,” Mark Nicholls, general operations manager at NWF Fuels, told Fuel Oil News editor, Jane Hughes on a recent visit to the Group’s head office near Nantwich in Cheshire.

Working across the Lincolnshire countryside is Lincolnshire Fuels – one of four NWF Fuels depots which have now achieved platinum status in the FPS accreditation scheme

Working across the Lincolnshire countryside is Lincolnshire Fuels – one of four NWF Fuels depots which have now achieved platinum status in the FPS accreditation scheme

Not only was Mark speaking about an NWF Fuels initiative which has made a step change to the company’s health, safety and environmental (HSE) procedures, he was also highlighting the impact this has made on the company’s award success in the FPS depot certification scheme.

Mark originally joined NWF in 1995, leaving for a short while before returning in 2000. His role now involves all operational activity within the business, including health & safety.

Health, safety and environment – engaging staff

Formerly, HSE matters were dealt with by a central body in the NWF plc Group. Wishing to take back control and empower its staff, Mark together with managing director Kevin Kennerley, and sales director Mark Adcock, got together to produce a de-jargoned, plain English bespoke document for HSE and operational asset management; they were assisted by Dave Mattock of Beacon Safety.

Totally tailored to depot operations, this was to be a document which could be understood and acted upon by everyone, at whatever level. As emergency response provision and environmental impact is particular to each depot, the document was designed for personalisation by each depot with the ability to add photographs and site specific instructions.

“With the document ready, we needed to present it to the depot managers,” said Mark. A weekend away was arranged for all depot managers at a hotel near Wrexham. “It was the ideal opportunity to get together to talk things through and to have a bit of fun. Although everyone had given up their weekend, the benefits of OASIS (Operational Asset Safety & Integrity Management System) were appreciated straight away. Trainer Dave Mattock set a test which everyone passed and the managers took back what they’d learnt and set about implementing it in their own depots. The weekend empowered people to take charge and to change their working environment for the better. Six years on, this weekend is still talked about.”

From the biggest NWF Fuels Depot at Wardle in Cheshire to the smallest at Droitwich in Worcestershire, all depots have taken great pride in integrating OASIS into their daily routines.

“HSE is everybody’s problem and everybody’s responsibility,” said Mark. “Everyone working in our depots knows the correct procedure if an issue should arise and that accuracy and speed of response are of the essence.”

Making great strides

Since implementing OASIS we have re-audited our depots through the FPS depot accreditation scheme with each one improving its score – some significantly.

“Within our industry this scheme offers the fairest and most detailed audit,” said Mark. “It allows us to benchmark ourselves against comparable companies facing similar operational issues. As with any scheme of this nature you only get out what you put in, and we were delighted to have had our Lincolnshire Fuels depot recognised as runners up in the depot of the year category at this year’s FPS awards ceremony. This depot has been a Phillips 66 authorised distributor for many years and we feel that Phillips continued support of the FPS scheme has been a major factor in raising its profile within the industry.”

NWF Fuels has 17 depots nationwide; having scored between 91-100%, four now have platinum status – Stoke, Browns of Burwell, Lincolnshire Fuels and Yate near Bristol, whilst with scores between 81-90% all other audited depots have achieved a gold status.

“Our ethos is that it’s people that make the difference and these results are a real testament to the efforts and dedication of everyone within our business,” said Mark. “The improvements have been made through the introduction of understandable and relevant procedures combined with the buy-in from all of our depot managers, without the need to spend vast sums of money.”

Looking for an upgrade – fuelling a more competitive spirit

“Depot managers take real ownership of their depots and there’s a competitive spirit with all wanting to be the best. A real desire to see how it’s been done, means those with gold status are very keen to learn from the platinum depots. It’s great that we’ve captured the competitiveness of the company’s sales arena and translated it into the operational side of the business.

“We liken our depot managers to Swiss Army pen knives, they are critical components in our business and take responsibility for everything that happens at their depots, and we arm them with the tools to tackle any job.

“Regular internal HSE audits are undertaken after which we debrief with action plans produced to ensure that everything’s still going in the right direction. We’ve worked with depot managers to help them implement the new measures, and there’s been a buy-in from everybody; responsibility has been taken and expanded with local depot managers improving their own procedures.

“Post Buncefield, the fuel distribution industry has seen a huge change in attitude to HSE. Over the past few years NWF Fuels has been on a journey; we’ve completely immersed ourselves in HSE and the subject is no longer a mystery. We understand exactly what it means and it all makes perfect sense. It’s now embedded in our culture and as an added bonus it’s improved our surroundings. I would like to thank David Mattock, whose support has been invaluable, for making what at first appearance is a rather turgid subject, most interesting and engaging, the whole company has benefited.”

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NWF Fuels trades under the Dragon Petroleum, Knutsford Domestic Oils, Malpas Oils, JP Oils, J&K Fuels, J.W.Keep, Bassett Fuels, G Thomas & Sons, CP Fuels, T Splitt, Fuel Oil Supply Co, Oil Ignition Lessees, Lincolnshire Fuels, Broadland Fuels, Browns of Burwell, Swan Petroleum and Evesons Fuels brands.

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