“Communication, collaboration and teamwork are key to a successful health and safety culture,” says Nikoleta Solueva, EHS Project Lead

For Nikoleta Solueva, team safety culture remains the key to a safe site. In this #PeopleFirst, we headed to our data centre project in Gävle, Sweden, where Nikoleta and our safety team work with more than 300 Kirby employees, subcontractors, and the main contractor to establish an environment that prioritises safety and wellbeing.

A site that delivers on our Zero Harm vision. Zero Harm embraces a comprehensive approach to enhancing safety and performance, encompassing eight core leading indicators – including engagement, communication, skills and wills, quality, and compliance. These indicators serve as fundamental pillars in the pursuit of improved safety and operational excellence.

“Zero Harm is simply caring for people. Every single person on site is part of one team, no matter who they work for. We have built a culture of collaboration, recognition and support that transcends company allegiance.

“These relationships are built on connections and understanding that every person is different,” says Nikoleta, who gained a grounding in health and safety engineering at the Technical University of Gabrovo in Bulgaria. A move to the Nordics came with the construction of a new nuclear power plant in Finland. Nikoleta moved to Kirby in 2022, joining the EHS team on a data centre project in Switzerland, and later our scheme in Gävle, Sweden. “Kirby is operating as the main subcontractor on a few data centre projects in Sweden and it has an office in Gävle,” she adds.

“I have met great people at Kirby since the very beginning. We have a very strong team with the right people on board. We motivate each other, challenge ourselves, provide feedback and push ourselves to improve and grow,” says Nikoleta.

Nikoleta leads the Kirby EHS team of three advisors on this site. A site-specific EHS plan is developed in preconstruction, outlining the partners on site and the specific arrangements for managing our scope of work, critical risks and emergency response. Nikoleta and her team oversee, develop, and deliver such plans, working with each operative and team to develop the site safety systems of work and method statements to ensure everyone goes home safely, which is the core mission of their work.

We ask Nikoleta what her day-to-day looks like, “No day is the same. We hold a whiteboard meeting with the general contractor at the start of each day, mapping out which areas each contractor needs access to, any high-risk activities on site and how we can work together to achieve that day’s working plan. An internal Kirby meeting follows to plan ahead and make everyone aware of what the working day looks like. As we head out to walk the site, we monitor the safe working environment, and engage with each operative to get their feedback on any challenges. Daily documentation, audits, reports, meetings and preparation and review of RAMS follow.

“Feedback and recognition are incredibly important for us. People want to hear that their work is being evaluated and respected. Every operative here is treated as a part of the team. Through our recognition programme, we recently commended two workers in one of our electrical teams. The impact that positive feedback had was instant, and you could tell that it made a difference. People on this site are often working away from home, and with constant communication, solving challenges together, and positive feedback, we have built a strong and supportive team in a sustainable, safe working environment.”

Nikoleta adds, “To be the best in the field of health and safety, it is crucial that our knowledge is up to date and that we maintain an optimal mindset. Kirby supports us in this, we are all provided with continuous learning, courses and training.”

Nikoleta has been through the IMI-accredited management fundamentals programme, “The training was based on the leadership and the methodology of how to build a high-performing team. Our attention was focused on understanding our own strengths and working on any possible weaknesses, it really brought us to another level and strengthened us as a project team.”

Self-belief and belief in your ability as a team is something that resonates with Nikoleta as a woman in the engineering and construction industry, “Success is not a given or a permanent constant. It took hard work and continuous learning to become confident and believe in my skills. I continually improve myself as a professional. Learning every day is a key part of this. For any woman in engineering and construction, I would tell them that there are no borders if you are motivated. When you believe in yourself, your confidence shines through. Everyone can ensure they are the best they can be.”

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Nikoleta Solueva, EHS Project Lead
Nikoleta Solueva, EHS Project Lead
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