INRELATION 05-2014 - page 10

“Creating a robust safety culture is only possible with a firm
commitment from the senior management of the company. That is
why I always wear the required personal protective equipment, such
as safety goggles and a helmet as conspicuously as possible when I
visit sites where our people are at work. As a member of the Executive
Board, it is up to me to set an example", said Hugo Loudon at the start
of the discussion in the TNO office in Hoofddorp.
Since 1 September 2013 the former board member of Tata Steel
Nederland has been responsible for HSE throughout Hertel. In the past
few months, he has carried out 30 site-safety visits in the Netherlands
and abroad, in order to familiarise himself with the way in which Hertel
employees are putting safety into practice.
Says Zwetsloot: “In the interest of credibility, it is essential for the
senior managers of a company to stand firmly behind the objectives of
the safety policy and to pursue them personally. Most employees do
want to work as safely as possible, but there are also those who need
to be persuaded. So it is an absolute precondition that management
should set the right example and that the safety policy is portrayed
consistently and clearly.”
Safety policy turnaround
Loudon spent the preceding eighteen years at Tata Steel, which
was originally known as Hoogovens and then as Corus. He vividly
remembers the change in the safety policy in the steel industry. “About
fifteen years ago there was a serious incident in a steel plant in the UK,
in which several people were killed. That was the moment the steel
industry, including Tata Steel, really started taking safety seriously.
And they made a success of it too, because when I left, Tata Steel had
become the safety benchmark in the World Steel Association.”
He emphasises that embedding the awareness of safety in the
organisation's genes was a protracted process. Tata Steel deliberately
opted to involve the office staff in the execution of the safety
programmes as well. “Obviously, the risk of accidents occurring in an
office is much smaller than in a plant, but it was important for office
staff to be made aware of the risks of cables lying about or other things
not being stored properly and of the way people in the field dealt with
safety. That is why I also want to involve the office staff at Hertel more
closely in the safety programmes, for example by having them attend a
VCA training course."
A shift in culture is essential
A performance appraisal with his then management assistant was an
eye-opener for Loudon. She said the constant focus on safety in the
office had a positive effect on her private life. For example, after the
introduction of the safety programmes she started closing the hot-
water tap first and then slightly opening the cold-water tap in order
to prevent her little children from scalding themselves with the hot
water. "For me, this example underlines the fact that in order to act
safely, it is not a case of throwing a switch, so to speak." The "switch"
should be on all the time, even at home, which is still the place where
most accidents happen. The business sector only accounts for a small
proportion," Loudon maintains.
Zwetsloot agrees that a shift in culture has to take place first. "In
today's society, self-discipline is often hard to find. And that has an
effect on safety-consciousness. So I think there's something to be said
for Loudon's suggestion that like in some Scandinavian countries, we
could do with a large-scale government campaign to raise safety-
consciousness in the Netherlands as well. Because safety is not only
relevant to business; it's a subject that is important for society as a
Involving the family
Meanwhile, Hertel has started rolling out its Target Zero programme.
Several programmes have been introduced, such as the Life-Saving
Rules, which have been around in the industry for some time, and the
TimeOut system.
All employees also received an information package at home in which
the individual components of the programme are explained. Hertel de-
liberately decided to send the package to the home addresses in order
to involve the employees' families in the safety policy as well.
Hertel COO Hugo Loudon talks to TNO's Professor Gerard Zwetsloot
Creating a robust safety culture, in which people have the courage to point out unsafe acts and situations to one
another and to learn from incidents, is no simple task and yet it is one of the most important goals of Hertel's Target
Zero programme. Hugo Loudon, whose responsibility, as Chief Operating Officer, includes, among other things, HSEQ
throughout Hertel as a whole, discusses these and other topics in the area of safety with Professor Gerard Zwetsloot
of the TNO, who in 2012 coordinated an investigation commissioned by DCMR into the safety culture of fourteen
chemical companies in the Rijnmond region.
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