Use stoppages to talk Sheq

Work stoppages to manage SHEQ exposures, named ‘stop and fix’ in mining, or SHEQ events in working time, could raise SHEQ awareness and grow culture.

Some west rand mines have been practicing incidental work stoppages for about two years, notably during the onset of the global recession, but workers are invariably impressed when managements spend resources on their safety.

Some service organisations likewise have found that culture spreads and grows better on special days, in line with spiritual and nationalist practice in all cultures around the world.

SHEQ motivational presenter Jurgen Tietz has been involved in successful work stoppages at Exxaro, Eskom, BHP Billiton, SA Mint, and Transnet. He warns that scheduled work stoopage for SHEQ events should not be ‘quick and cheap’ affairs.

“That would backfire on employers, since people realize how much time and money you spend on an event. You have to take time out to make a mark.

“To cram it into a lunch break or do it on the run, would be counter productive. If you are not able or willing to make the investment, then give this idea a miss.”

Tietz says nearly all employers use the motto ‘Ukuphepha yikhona okuphambili, Safety comes first’.

“I have yet to find a company where the leaders say production or costs or whatever else is priority, yet workers know how much time and money is spent on safety, and thereby know where it ranks among other priorities.”

“Demonstrate that you are serious about safety by stopping operation to talk and do safety. A safety day has to be well planned and organised to ensure you get value for your investment in time and money.

“Set your objectives, ensure that people own the event, agree a budget, theme, programme, handouts, venue, presentations, MC and follow up afterwards to sustain the impact generated.”

Tietz says 2010 presents a golden opportunity for work stoppages, due to energy and hype around the Soccer World Cup rubbing off on safety days.

Sustained campaigns

Responsible Care has recently introduced a mascot, Bhekisisa, as a vehicle to anchor the SHEQ culture of shop floor staff at RC member companies.

“While there are many factors involved in safe operations, we place special emphasis on human behaviour as one that needs to be addressed constantly,” explained RC official Dr Laurraine Lotter.

At a CAIA Responsible Care workshop on Process Safety in March 2010, Neil Franklin, safety advisor at the Sasol SH&E Centre, said human error was often indicated as the cause of most injuries, but these ‘errors’ are really the result of other factors like poor training, poor concentration or assigning a task beyond the individual’s understanding or capability.

“Employers should ensure good leadership to prevent incidents,” said Franklin. This could involve encouraging teamwork and higher morale. Company leaders should also introduce organisational programmes to assess and manage the overall culture, of which safety results is an outcome.

“The boardroom sets the climate in which safety will be managed. It also determines the tone of the company and behaviour of its management, and ultimately workers, on this issue,” explained Franklin.

Employers should not assume that their safety and health performance was adequate, said Francois Holtzhausen, process safety advisor at Sasol SH&E Centre. “A company working with large volumes of flammable solvents claimed to have no records of fires, fatalities or incidents for over 15 years. But a week later, they had a large fire at the factory. It was so severe that the company was forced to close down this plant.”

According to Holtzhausen, companies should foster a reporting culture among employees, so that all incidents – whether small or large – are known and investigated, and preventative measures are developed as a safeguard against future incidents.

Many companies have had to cut budgets during these tough times, but RC encourage oeprators to continue prioritising health and safety in their spend, said Dr Lotter.

PHOTO; SHEQ motivator Jurgen Tietz.

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