Safety Manager of the Year, Matthew O’Dowd, speaks to Health & Safety Review

Matthew O’Dowd, winner of the Safety Excellence Awards Health and Safety Manager of the year 2021

Matthew O’Dowd, winner of the Safety Excellence Awards Health and Safety Manager of the year 2021

Finding solutions inspires Safety Manager of the Year

Our HSEQ Director Matthew O’Dowd spoke to Margaret Kirby of the Health and Safety Review magazine this month, following his recent success at the Safety Excellence Awards.
Inspiring his team and the entire group to uphold the principles of safety for each other is something Matthew achieves everyday and we are delighted to spotlight this piece in recognition of his dedication.

Finding solutions inspires Safety Manager of the Year, Matthew O’Dowd

Winner of the prestigious title of Health and Safety Manager of the year, Matthew O’Dowd speaks passionately about why the Elliott Group is a great place to work, how they navigated through Covid-19, and why finding solutions is an essential part of the job.

Matthew O’Dowd, winner of the Safety Excellence Awards, Health and Safety Manager of the year 2021, is no stranger to recognition for his hard work and dedication. Recently promoted to HSEQ Director with the Elliott Group, a building and civil engineering company with office locations in Ireland and the UK, he explains how he “was shocked” to hear he had won. Previous winners in the NISO/NISG Annual Safety Awards, this current award is a testament to the positive and proactive safety culture of the company and its staff.

Coming from a construction background, Mr. O’Dowd worked for 14 years with Pierse Contracting, a large construction company which collapsed after the building boom ended in 2009/2010. He moved on to work with Bord Gáis Energy, where his role had a more corporate focus, before meeting with his future employer Darragh Elliott, managing director with the Elliott Group.

Great place to work

The Elliott Group has a long history in construction and were in the process of rebuilding their company when Mr. O’Dowd joined them, almost four years ago. Their focus was on delivering projects safely, getting repeat clients, and not overstretching themselves, he explains. They are currently involved in many high-profile projects and have worked with government and private clients in all sectors.

Speaking with HSR remotely, O’Dowd had just returned from two site visits, one at a Carrickmines retail office, spanning four floors, valued at €14 million and another at Richmond Homes, a development of 140 apartments valued at €40 million. The company is also working on a significant hotel project in Cork, as well as working with the HSE. “The Elliott Group is a great place to work, if you show initiative, you will be supported and encouraged,” he says. There is a big commitment to safety, and winning awards is recognised as valuable way to demonstrate this.

Speaking about how he won the award, O’Dowd explains that one of his colleagues completed the 5-page submission under the direction of Darragh Elliott. The award is open to any health and safety manager who has played a key role in the implementation or improvement of health, safety, or wellbeing within their organisation, which includes any successful initiatives.

Embracing technology

Talking about some of these initiatives, O’Dowd outlines how the company has embraced new technology in order to make recording and analysing safety information easier. The use of ‘Procore’, a cloud-based construction management platform has transformed how they complete site inspections, assign and track actions, and review metrics.

It is operated via a mobile device, phone or tablet and everyone has access to it, including subcontractors and clients. “Observations and inspections on-site can be recorded in real-time, assigned to a manager for action, a timeframe specified and pictures are uploaded to confirm close out” he explains. The tool also provides metrics that are reviewed at meetings.

Online induction training is another one of the company’s successful initiatives. Ahead of the curve, they had already implemented this system prior to Covid-19, which helped them keep staff trained whilst complying with public health requirements.

The company is also accredited to three management systems, including ISO45001, ISO9001, and ISO45001 which is an impressive achievement, covering the safety, quality, and environmental aspects of the job. “A lot of the work for these systems is managed through Procore” says O’Dowd, which means there is less and less paperwork to manage, making it more efficient for everyone involved.

Working through Covid-19

The Elliott Group was one of the few construction company’s which remained working during the various lockdowns of the pandemic. With up to 500 people to manage, between employees and subcontractors in Ireland and the UK, it was essential for them to implement infection prevention measures during the early days of Covid-19.

“We were working with the HSE to implement additional bed capacity from the start of the Pandemic, storage rooms were being converted, prefabs were being redesigned, all to create extra beds, it was scary at times,” O’Dowd says.

The company was fortunate to have their own stocks of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) available and acted swiftly, making mask-wearing mandatory for their workers, as well as introducing weekly antigen testing. Positive cases remained out of work, and workers with symptoms and their close contacts followed procedures in relation to isolation.

They also provided temperature testing units which are still in use, although the need for antigen testing has decreased with the uptake of vaccinations. All of these measures ensured they had minimum illness levels and disruption to work activities due to Covid-19, and both staff and clients felt reassured by the measures they had taken.

 Finding Solutions

It is clearly obvious from talking with O’Dowd that he loves his job. His energy and enthusiasm for the role is explained by the fact that he enjoys finding solutions. “I’m hands-on, on-site, I try to find solutions for the team” he explains. O’Dowd’s approach to safety is one of positivity, trust, openness, and engagement.

“It’s important to take the time to talk to those who are doing the job and make them feel that they are part of the decision-making process, and part of the solution” he advises. O’Dowd admits he spends up to 70% of his working time visiting the various sites the company is working on at any given time, which has helped build a strong relationship of trust with the workers. “It’s about building relationships, attending site meetings, and providing support” he advises.

To help provide this support, O’Dowd has a team of six staff between Ireland and the UK, who work to maintain this culture of trust, and the systems which are in place to enable it. One of these systems is the daily whiteboard meeting which happens first thing in the morning on site. Key company personnel are present, as well as a representative from each sub-contractor. Critical issues are discussed such as numbers on site, deliveries due, concrete pours, and generally what’s happening that day, and the whiteboard is updated.

This information is brought back to the contractors’ workers who talk through the hazards and risks and agree on any solutions. This is called a ‘Safe Start’ which is recorded electronically on the Procore platform, and signed off electronically there and then. This approach helps ensure that safety transgresses through all levels within the organisation, and that all workers are included.

Culture is top-down

Speaking about his management style, O’Dowd emphasises that the culture of the organisation comes from the top down. He praises the management team, in particular Darragh Elliott who he reports to, and also Gary O’Sullivan, construction director. There is also a Board, with seven members who are equally committed to ensuring safety is kept a priority.

This commitment is evident from O’Dowd’s recent promotion to HSEQ Director. “It is quite difficult to get to Director level within an organisation, and on a personal level, it is a very satisfying and great validation of my work. It sends a great message to staff and to industry partners, as well as making a good impression with clients” he adds.

Looking to the future, it is apparent that the Elliott Group is in good hands in relation to the people and resources they have invested in to support and lead the safety function on their sites. They are continuously looking ahead, predicting what is coming next, and trying to find solutions. They have successfully navigated their way through the Pandemic and have embraced technology to enable their workers to take greater ownership of safety. Their culture of positivity, trust, and including workers in making decisions is to be commended and will continue to be of value to their business in the years ahead.


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Premier Inn, George’s Street, Dublin

We’re delighted to showcase the all-new Premier Inn, located in the heart of Dublin on George’s Street, which has successfully reached completion. With an especially restricted site, we congratulate our team on achieving such high quality, preserving the integrity of the building, and applying the highest safety measures, to complete a fantastic project.
In an area of conservation, the facade has been beautifully protected and retained. And thanks to the skills of our digital construction team coordinating the completion of frame, envelope, services and finishes, and the quality of workmanship, this is a perfect example of how Elliott Group can deliver a complex project to the highest possible standards.

It’s been a pleasure to work with our partners; Greenleaf, Warren Private, i3PT, Buildcost, McCauley Dave O’Connell, Barret Mahony, iAcoustics, Renaissance Engineering and McGill Planning, with thanks to the full team for delivering a landmark feature for the Dublin cityscape.

Construction Youth Trust Charity Project UK 2021

Construction Youth Trust Charity Project 2021 Elliott Group

During the Summer break of 2021, Elliott Group were delighted to manage and deliver the Community Park Pond Deck Project in Swanscombe, Kent, with The Construction Youth Trust, in order to develop the skills of young offenders who were keen to improve their employability.

The Swanscombe Heritage Park is a 3.9 hectares geological Site of Special Scientific Interest. It contains two Geological Conservation Review sites and a National Nature Reserve and provides much-needed outdoor public space and green areas to the local community. Swanscombe Council was in great need of a safe and suitable decking area to surround a newly constructed public pond, situated within a shaded woodland area of the park. Due to the lack of direct sunlight and also the damp nature of the corner, the decking material would need to be made of a recycled composite non-slip decking material, in order to maintain long-term stability, and reduce rotting that would occur in timber boards.

Lacking in funding for the work, Elliott Group volunteered to deliver the project for the Council for free, as part of their ongoing commitment to add value and improvement to the communities within which they work.
The project also involved the local Youth Offending Team, who had a small group of young offenders (aged 17 years old) showing keen interest in a career within the construction industry. These young people were given the opportunity to complete the project works, under the guidance and supervision of the skilled Elliott tradespeople, who could mentor them through the process and equip them with valuable skills.
In return for completing the works, the boys were provided with fully funded CSCS and Health & Safety Level 1 training, in order to give them access to construction employment opportunities after the project.
Elliott Group were extremely proud to have enabled this project to go ahead, for the benefit of the trainees, as well as the local community who now gain the use of a safe new viewing deck at the park pond.

For more information on the Trust, please click here

Considerate Constructor Certificate of Excellence

The Elliott Group awarded Considerate Constructor Certificate of Excellence - VHI Carrickmines

The Elliott Group have long been an advocate of the Considerate Contractor Scheme and we are proud to have been awarded yet another Certificate of Excellence for our VHI project in Carrickmines, Dublin.

The Considerate Contractor scheme sets high standards for the construction industry in safety, appearance, respect for the community, protection of the environment and value of the workforce. At The Elliott Group, we have always strived to adhere to the Code of Considerate Practice and our ZeroRisk policy is a tangible statement to our clients, staff, subcontractors and third parties that we aim to operate on a ZeroRisk in the key areas of Safety, Environmental, Quality and Programme Delivery.

A significant milestone in Health and Safety was reached on this project in April when the team onsite celebrated over 40,000 manhours without incident. Our VHI Site team also visited Ballyogan Family Resource Centre, which is a not-for-profit community-based organization about 1.5km away from our VHI Carrickmines site. As they rely heavily on the support of local people, we were delighted to recognise their efforts and donate one of our Fogging Disinfection Machines to their Creche.

As members of the Considerate Constructors Scheme, we are continually looking for ways in which we can raise our standards to enrich the communities we work in and look forward to many more opportunities to do so in the future.

None of this would be possible without the experience and dedication of our tried and trusted teams working on the VHI Carrickmines project and throughout all our projects in Ireland and the UK.

Sponsorship and Charity

At the Elliott Group, we embrace our corporate responsibilities. We are committed to supporting and making a difference, to help and strengthen communities in need.

At the Elliott Group we believe that success is not solely measured by financial results, but by the manner in which we conduct our business. Our company is built upon strong values and ethical practices. That’s why our management team are committed to maintaining the highest standards of responsible corporate behaviour and improving the quality of life of local communities and society in general. The Elliott Group sponsor many local charities and local clubs including:

The Lions Club

Niall Mellon Foundation

Cystic Fibrosis Cavan

Cavan Rugby Club

NEW 75 BED WARD BLOCK – UHG Value: €15,000,000

Elliott Group joined in a Joint Venture with GEM Group to form GEMElliott Construciton Ltd and won this project though a competitive tender process.

This project consisted of the construction of a new 75 Bed Ward Block as an extension on to the existing live acute University Hospital Galway. All works that interfaced with the hospital were carried out under method statement and work permits. There were over 200 method statements issued on this project. We used an LOD 350 BIM model to coordinate the services even though it was not a contractual requirement. All M&E systems were agreed via technical submittal process. Workshops were held on all critical systems with the hospital maintenance and end user staff. Technical submitted on all packages on the project in order to ensure compliance with the works requirements. A sample/mock-up room was constructed at the start of the project in order to agree details, which was one of the key reason we achieved a very high quality finish on the project.

This project is a a fine example of our ability to work with many different stakeholders in a live acute hospital campus and successfully deliver an A2 BER building to the highest HTM complaint standards.

Elliott Group - Building a Civil Engineering, Cavan, Ireland