A matter of life and death – life saving rules

On Wednesday 28 September DSM employees around the world considered the one key question: How can we be more vigilant with regard to safety? Monique Caubo, Luca Rosetto (both CORC) and DSM Managing Board member Nico Gerardu explain the background to this and Connect visited a number of sites to hear what people had to say about this life-and-death issue.

Rules and conduct

“DSM is a company that quite naturally takes health and safety very seriously. For decades the company has been investing a lot of time and energy in procedures, methods of working and the conduct of each and every employee in order to promote safety. DSM was also one of the first companies in the Netherlands to produce an external annual report on this subject. We all know that rules and procedures play an extremely important part in ensuring safety at work, but what they don’t cover is employee behaviour and personal vigilance. There have recently been a number of fatal accidents and serious near-accidents at DSM sites and we regret these very much. Our aim is to be accident and injury free. Every accident is one too many.”

Accidents

“On 11 September last year a fatal accident took place at the Capua site in Italy. Three employees from an external company lost their lives during maintenance work on a fermentation plant. Ten days later an employee at DSM Elastomers was killed in a road traffic accident. The accident didn’t happen on a DSM site, but an investigation was nevertheless started straight away to examine what improvements could be made to ensure greater safety on the road. In response to these two fatal accidents in December 2010 a group representing employees from all of the DSM entities commenced talks to draw up a plan for the future. This gave rise to three work flows: DSM must focus on and raise awareness of the SHE principles; the SHE competencies must be strengthened everywhere; and we need once more to ensure that we focus clearly on the main aspects. The number of rules needs to be kept to a minimum. And these rules then really need to be implemented. One of the outcomes of this third flow is the 12 Life-Saving Rules, which were drawn up in close consultation with the business groups. Whilst these and other actions were being implemented, there were unfortunately other accidents. There was a road traffic accident in China and in Taiwan fire broke out on a DSM site. On 13 September this year a contractor lost his life whilst carrying out renovation work in the American city of Augusta.”

Human factors

“These are dreadful events that nobody wants to happen − and yet they still occur. However important procedures and regulations may be, you will never create a workplace that is totally safe just using a handbook. And yet more new rules issued by head office won’t do it either. In a special film DSM’s CEO Feike Sijbesma and member of the Managing Board Nico Gerardu made it absolutely clear that personal vigilance is of the utmost importance. DSM investigates near-accidents very carefully and uses the ‘TRIPOD’ analysis to look for any hidden elements that could potentially give rise to hazardous situations in factories, outdoors or in an office. Research has shown that 80% of all accidents involve human factors. It is therefore not without good reason that we devote a lot of attention to this, for example using the Human Factors Analysis developed by the Scottish Keil Centre, but also by means of actions we have set up in connection with the Life-Saving Rules.”

Rewriting the rules makes no difference

Eric Rouhof

Eric Rouhof

Eric Rouhof (SHE manager DSM Dyneema): “Two years ago we realized that we needed to improve the safety performance at DSM Dyneema. Last year we succeeded in reducing the number of accidents by 65%; this year the index has unfortunately risen again slightly. I do not think it helps to rewrite the rules, at the end of the day that makes no difference at all. Compliance and ‘consequence management’ are important tools, but if you haven’t managed to get the employees on board first on the basis of their own experiences and responsibilities, then it will be a long time until you see any results. In 2010 we held our Connect the Dots meeting. Dyneema employees from all over the world came together and instead of arranging for the SHE manager to stand and preach to them, we gave the employees a chance to do the talking. We were shown the very interesting film entitled ‘The Safety Man’, which was made by employees in Urmond. A female operator from Heerlen explained, with tears in her eyes, how she had been rescued from a life-threatening situation by a colleague. There was a story from a manager in the United States, whose employee had been seriously injured in a factory accident. Never has a hall full of people been so quiet. You see, this is a totally different approach from implementing a zero tolerance policy. First you need to enter into an open and perhaps sometimes confrontational discussion with one another. What do we want to achieve and what can we do to create a safer workplace? After a discussion like this about the essence of the matter, you can go on to mark out an approach that will have the support of the employees. Everyone will feel they have a bit of a role as a SHE manager. There may be differences between the various sites − for example when it comes to using your phone in the car or taking medicines − but the underlying aim will still be to ensure that everyone is more aware of their own individual role and responsibilities. Last month, on the ‘day of vigilance’ in question we also talked frankly and at length about this. We realized that Life-Saving Rules work not so much because they have been issued from above, but because people show through their attitude and their behaviour just how important it is to do everything possible to prevent accidents and incidents.”

Just around the corner

Jos Tijhuis

Jos Tijhuis

Jos Tijhuis (DSM EP): “On the day in question we held a communications session in the company canteen for all our employees in Sittard. We started off by watching the film with Sijbesma and Gerardu, following which our director, Roelof Westerbeek, very openly shared a number of personal experiences with everyone. He made it quite clear that we need to pay much more attention to the safety of contractors. I then spoke to the employees and talked in detail about the incident in Augusta. Most of the input for this came from a conversation I had had with the twin brother of the deceased. This affects people emotionally and you particularly notice that people react differently when the right side of the brain is involved. Various suggestions have been made for how to improve things, such as making sure that safety is a topic of discussion at each and every meeting. Some people also wanted to see a return of the STOP program which we implemented for a long time. Whatever comes of this, the message was loud and clear and we shall work hard to encourage people to remain vigilant at all times. An accident can always be lurking just around the corner.”

Trust a pitfall?

Michel Meertens

Michel Meertens

Michel Meertens (Plant Manager DSM Sinochem Pharmaceuticals Netherlands) “Our safety meeting cut right through all levels. Everyone was there, from financial directors to operators, lawyers and secretaries. We started off with a personal reflection given by our Chief Operating Officer DSM Sinochem Pharmaceuticals, Lucas Hendrikse, followed by the video message from Feike Sijbesma and Nico Gerardu. They emphasized the responsibility we have to also ensure a safe workplace for contractors. After that we split into smaller groups and discussed openly the safety risks that arise in our own workplaces and the ways in which we deal with them. Some groups talked about what people ‘feel and sense’ when they visit our site. What guidance do we provide for contractors? Do we understand their approach to safety? Do we help them to really understand the rules? Another point of discussion was new or temporary employees. Do we need to have a safety mentor, perhaps one for every floor, to take responsibility for ensuring more effective guidance for new employees and temporary workers? It was also pointed out that trust can sometimes be something of a pitfall when it comes to safety. After all, you trust without question that everything is well organized. In various groups they looked more closely at the risks associated with routines and habits when driving or on a business trip. Telephoning when driving − even hands free − can be dangerous, particularly if you are driving fast to try and get somewhere on time. Most groups discussed how individuals need to change their own behaviour in order to create a safer workplace. Everyone accepts that the need for speed can also lead to carelessness. So don’t rush! In addition to that, we are also going to report on near-accidents in the office environment and, without wanting to nitpick, we aim to pay attention to the more minor details, like not rushing on the stairs or in the corridor. And is it really necessary for people to text whilst they are cycling or driving?”

Not afraid to say NO

Fleur Oskam

Fleur Oskam

Fleur Oskamp (Production manager DSM Resins, Hook of Holland): “The SHE Critical Procedures (SCP) were introduced at DSM Resins in 2008. There are now 13 of these procedures and these Life-Saving Rules, as they are known, relate to the most critical safety aspects with which we are faced in our daily work.

The introduction and embracement of SCP did not take place without considerable ups and downs. In the end it has meant that in many areas we have to change the way we work and pay even greater attention to safety and the risks associated with the work we are doing. It is clear that people continue to find change difficult, however good it is for their own health and safety. Now, three years down the line, the organization has enjoyed tremendous growth. There have been amendments to processes and changes to procedures, but more importantly people are now not afraid to say NO if something is potentially dangerous, and that really has made our site a lot safer.

The introduction of the Life-Saving Rules and the Site Safety Lunch on 28 September has given an extra boost to our discussion about safety risks and how we can deal with them effectively, as well as how we can help each other and learn from each other too. These are recurring themes, with one consistent message and one consistent aim throughout our entire company: to create a working environment free from accidents or major incidents.”

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