Cummins has launched pioneering initiative the Safe Space Programme to protect employees from domestic abuse.  PETER BARRON finds out more…

AS the Covid-19 pandemic took its grip on the nation, Lynsey Corelli found herself waking in the night, worrying about the impact of the lockdown on domestic abuse statistics.
Having been through an abusive relationship a few years earlier, there was good reason for it being an issue close to Lynsey’s heart, and her thoughts were with those trapped at home with violent partners.
“The pandemic was the perfect storm for domestic abuse – it was on a scale refuges hadn’t seen before,” she explains. “The figures were shocking.”
For Lynsey, now in a happy relationship, being furloughed meant being able to spend more time at home with her wife.
“It was wonderful to be paid to have that time together,” she adds. “But, at night, I’d find myself waking up in a panic, dreading to think what it would have been like a few years earlier when I was in a different, abusive relationship.”
During her own challenges with domestic abuse, Lynsey (pictured below) had been fortunate to have an empathetic previous employer, and recognised, through the support she received, that employers can play a pivotal role in helping someone find safety from domestic abuse.
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She decided to launch an internal awareness campaign at her current employer, global power technology leader Cummins, confident that the company would back her because of its strong track record of caring, supportive leadership.
By mapping national statistics against the number of employees at the Daventry plant where she worked, she’d been able to calculate that more than 50 of her colleagues were potentially at risk.
“These were members of my work family – and we needed to do something about it,” says Lynsey, who started with Cummins as a forklift truck driver, and is now a sales enablement specialist.
Her awareness campaign content was supported by SafeLives, the UK-wide charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse, and ManKind, a charity supporting male victims.
It had an immediate impact among the workforce, with colleagues stopping Lynsey on the shopfloor, and others sending her messages, asking if they could share the posters and information she’d distributed.
The campaign won an internal business impact award, leading senior managers to ask Lynsey for her wish-list on how the initiative should be developed.  Her response was to ask for domestic abuse company guidelines to be produced, along with the appointment of trained ‘signpost champions’ across every site in Europe, and a dedicated resource accessible to all Cummins employees. The company promptly gave it the go-ahead, and the Safe Space Programme was born.
A core team was established, comprising: Daniel Glenn, sponsor; Lynsey Corelli, programme manager; Nick Gartland, regional security leader (Europe); Stewart Smith, Cummins Powers Women’s personal safety champion; Gabriela Hornig, regional HR manager for Germany and West Balkans; Michael Abbott, senior HR manager Accelera by Cummins Inc; Samantha Gravells, communications director (Europe); Damian Castano Rodriguez, communications specialist (Europe); and Sofia Knox, marketing & communications associate.
A strategy was developed, with pilots held last year, and champions trained throughout the UK and Turkey. Europe-wide guidelines and online resources were also created.
The project was officially launched, in partnership with SafeLives, through a Europe-wide webinar last September, and all European sites in Cummins will be covered by domestic abuse champions by the second quarter of this year.
“The manifestation of the Safe Space Programme was one of the new positive things to come out of Covid,” says Lynsey.
“Often, the workplace is the only safe space for victims of domestic violence and, from day one, we had people reaching out to the champions.
“It feels wonderful to be so well supported but I can’t say I was surprised because it’s what I’ve come to expect from Cummins – exemplary leadership from leaders who follow through on core values.”
Although the initiative took root in Daventry, the company’s North-East plant, in Darlington has played a leading role in developing a model for building external relationships with local agencies.
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Stewart Smith, an experienced engineer in the emission solutions team, based in Darlington, is the personal safety champion for Cummins Powers Women – a global programme – and also a member of the core team on the Safe Space Programme.
He was given the task of working out how best to support and liaise with expert agencies out in Cummins’ local communities.
“I discovered that pharmacies, banks, building societies, and hospitals all have safe spaces, but very few large, private organisations have them,” explains Stewart.
“Our champions are not trained to be counsellors, they’re signposters, who are trained to know about local services, and to be able to spot signs of domestic abuse. What we needed was the right referral routes to local expertise.
“The UK is actually one of the most forward-thinking countries on domestic abuse, and although other countries will be more challenging, our aim is to show it’s possible to have a network of champions and external partnerships across a large multi-national organisation.”
The Darlington business was already in a strong position because of excellent existing relationships with the town’s Rape and Sexual Assault Crisis Centre, as well as Family Help, which houses Darlington’s only domestic violence refuge.
The ambition now is to maintain progress globally, with a three-year strategy in place to install more champions, build more external relationships, liaise with other employers, and become a partner with the Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse (EIDA).
And, as well as driving the project at Cummins, Stewart is keen to help any businesses wanting to develop their own domestic abuse projects.
“We’ve built up a lot of experience and we’d love to talk to other companies about how it’s been done.
“It’s not that hard to do, it doesn’t cost a lot of money, and it’s a no-lose situation,” he insists.
“Cummins has been very brave to step into an area many people find difficult to talk about. There’s still a lot to do to take it global, but it’s not an exaggeration to say we’re leading the way.”
And to think it all began with one employee, with personal experience of domestic abuse, simply wanting to do what she could to protect her colleagues from facing the same ordeal…
THE six champions at the North-East plant represent a blend of experience and some who are relatively new to the business.

While Stewart Smith has been with Cummins for 20 years, Taylor Bradford only started seven months ago as a graduate engineer in the European technical operations department.

Before moving to Darlington, Taylor had completed a year’s placement at Daventry, and supported Lynsey Corelli in providing research material for the initial awareness campaign.

“I immediately knew I wanted to work with Cummins because of the extra value they bring to their employees, and the Safe Space Programme is a great example of that,” says Taylor.

“Lynsey is a very motivational person, and it’s amazing how quickly the project has grown since she first raised the issue. Cummins is very good at providing a forum. A gap was identified by Lynsey, and it’s been quickly filled, with the company providing a lot of support.”

Meanwhile, Stewart is so passionate about the project and developing his own expertise that he’s studying for a degree in therapeutic counselling with Teesside University, while also volunteering as a counsellor for Durham Cares. His wife, Sue, is already a qualified counsellor, specialising in trauma, as well as domestic and sexual abuse.

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Janice Weatherley, a payroll internal control analyst, volunteered to become a champion because she’d gone through a personal experience of domestic abuse nine years ago.

“The Safe Space Programme is a demonstration of how Cummins really does value its people, and because of what I went through myself, I wanted to play a part in supporting others,” says Janice.

As the receptionist at the Darlington plant, Sabine Malherbe-Smith is a first point of contact for those arriving at the site – and that can be crucial in the event of an abuser wanting to get to a victim.

“This is just something we all feel really strongly about, and I’m proud to play my part,” she says.

The other Darlington champions are: supply chain transformation director Steve Clapham and IMC team leader Mandi Grant.


THE domestic abuse champions work with human resources, line managers, and the security team as well as the external agencies to provide the best safeguards.

“In short, what Lynsey has delivered with this policy is a senior leader promise that Cummins will put its own sites’ large resources to best use for the victim, whatever that may be,” says Stewart.

No two victims are the same, so the list of potential actions is endless, but here are some of the key steps the company takes under the Safe Space Project:

• The domestic abuse champions across the Cummins network help find the right referral route for colleagues seeking help.

• The company also takes practical steps, such as contacting those referral services on the champions’ behalf if required.

• Risk assessments are carried out in conjunction with Cummins’ security team.

• A buddy system is provided for an employee to get safely to their mode of transport.

• Parking close to the plant is arranged to make employees feel safe.

• A quiet area is provided, along with an anonymous phone, because it’s common for abusers to hack a victim’s phone with software that signals a location or even has listen-in capability.

• Champions, with the support of line managers, will provide internet access to enable victims to research services themselves.

• Cummins will also provide a safe workspace on site for anyone who wants to come into the office, even if they normally work from home. They may feel unsafe at home or want some uncontrolled time to access referral services.

• There is a dedicated online resource site for all employees to access, and the most used part is the services directory.

• A chat room enables the champions to meet monthly and share experiences.


Domestic abuse can come in many forms and can affect many people. Abusive behaviour is defined as any of the following:

• Physical or sexual abuse

• Violent or threatening behaviour

• Controlling or coercive behaviour

• Economic abuse

• Psychological, emotional, mental abuse

• Or other abuse


• 1 in 5 people will experience domestic abuse during their lifetime.

• It is estimated that less than 24% of cases are reported.

• 75% of those who experience this abuse are targeted whilst at work.


• If you are experiencing domestic abuse and need urgent assistance call 999.

• For advice and support, the Family Help charity in Darlington can be contacted on (01325) 364486 or by visiting

• Anyone wanting to know more about Cummins’ Safe Space Programme,
please contact Stewart Smith at

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