The changing landscape of workplace safety


From being on the back burner to taking center stage, safety has come a long way in the past few years. To get an insight into changing approach and focus towards safety, Shweta Nanda- Assistant Editor of ISR spoke to experts from leading Indian organizations. They take us through safety practices and initiatives at their firms and talk about the importance of employee training and their plans for FY18. Excerpts:

Harish Verma, Vice President – HSE, Cipla
Harish Verma, Vice President – HSE, Cipla

Business leadership and continuity is at the centre-stage of every manufacturing organization with cost, quality, servicing and EHS as the cornerstones. Good EHS managed through line function means good business. Cipla views EHS as an investment rather than a cost/expense, as fire and safety incidents are major business disruptors. Approach towards industrial safety has undertaken a quantum shift in the last few years, with organizations adopting a risk-based approach towards safety. The focus is on analysing risks and taking predictive measures to manage them thereby preventing potential disruptions.

Emphasizing on Inherent Safety

At Cipla, EHS is integral to our management systems. We maintain focus on inherent safety, i.e. machinery used in our plants have in-built safety features to prevent safety incidents. Besides other aspects, our plants are designed for safety and environment. We believe in the principle of first time right and thus a large part of project time goes in having the plant design right.

Ensuring and safeguarding employees is a priority. For us, PPE is the last resort, as we aim at taking measures to eliminate, or at the very least minimize risks, at source. To share an example, our attempt is to maximize use of green chemistry in designing manufacturing processes. This helps in greatly reducing risks. We, at Cipla, lay a lot of emphasis on training employees and contractors. We have EHS review committees at the plant and department level to execute and monitor EHS improvement plans.

Assessing IT-based applications

In line with our commitment to safety, we constantly look out for and evaluate new and innovative technologies and products. For FY18, we shall be looking at IT-based applications for efficient analysis, tracking, management of systems and training. Going forward, we see EHS e-learning as a part of learning management, as we feel online learning is more effective and flexible than classroom training.

Looking ahead, continuous manufacturing will be the next step in improving workplace safety in pharmaceutical manufacturing. Currently at a nascent stage, continuous manufacturing approach will become a reality with pharma industry in the coming years, thereby making workplace safer.

Sanjeev Nair, Head Logistics Safety, Ambuja Cements
Sanjeev Nair, Head Logistics Safety, Ambuja Cements

Over the years, India Inc. has been evolving its work practices and culture, however safety has not kept pace with the changing time. I would not say that it has not changed but the pace is slow. While multinational companies are accelerating their safety initiatives and are focusing their efforts on being compliant with international standards, smaller companies still look at safety as a ‘cost’ and not an investment.

Empowering Employees Through Training

At Ambuja, safety is a part of our culture and we constantly review our safety policies and practices. We lay a lot of stress on training and empowering people. We have a program called “We Care,” wherein each of the plants are divided into zones and each zone is led by the Zone Owner who has the line responsibility for his core function. Further, each zone has safety ambassadors and zone members. All Zone Owners are trained and formally empowered for assessing annual performance of the zone ambassadors and zone members.
All these personnel are trained in safety aspects and put through behavioural safety training to ensure that safety is implemented at the grass-roots level. There is also a reward and recognition for those performing exceptionally well. This keeps the teams motivated and also helps maintaining a safe work environment.

Logistics and Warehouse Safety

Talking specifically about logistics safety, which includes primary and secondary transportation and warehouse safety, the area has just started seeing some focus in terms of security. Traditionally, the transportation industry is not a well-regulated one and has been at the receiving end of several fire and safety related incidents. However, the scenario is changing gradually as some proactive companies have gone beyond the four wall of their factories and made it mandatory for all those driving for them to have undergone training in defensive driving. Also, as a basic requirement trucks used for transportation need to have a fire extinguisher.

The safety condition of warehouses is again a cultural issue. We have been working like this for years and nobody has ever bothered to look at improving it. Again, bigger companies are driving the change in warehouse safety. For example, at Ambuja, we have put up minimum safety standards for every warehouse, which include electrical safety, fire safety, use of personal protective equipment (PPEs), training workers regularly, to name a few.

As an industry insider, I see a huge requirement for good quality and very basic firefighting equipment for the transportation and warehousing sector. Here the key word is training in the use of these equipment. The manufacturers need to educate people and make them realize the importance of such equipment, then only can the market for these products grow and safety become a part of the culture.

Mahir Killedar, Safety Engineer, Excel Gas & Equipment
Mahir Killedar, Safety Engineer, Excel Gas & Equipment

Traditionally, in the construction field, there has been little awareness and focus on safety. However, since the past few years, safety culture has been improving. That said, it’s challenging to raise safety awareness amongst workers in the construction business due to low literacy levels. Thus, visual training is the best suited for us.

Raising Awareness

We are generating HSE awareness mostly through Toolbox Talk. Displaying safety slogans at the site is another step that we have taken in this regards. We take appropriate safety precautions for scaffolding work, erection of scaffold and working at height. We focus on the inspection of PPE and safety devices before use. Looking ahead, I strongly feel the need for more products specifically targeted for working at height as there are considerable safety hazards and risk factors.

Jeevan Rao, Chief Manager, Corporate Safety & Environment, Siemens
Jeevan Rao, Chief Manager, Corporate Safety & Environment, Siemens

The concept and definition of safety has undergone a sea-change, particularly in the last decade. The transformation is almost dramatic—from the operational safety activities to the journey and concept of Environment, Health & Safety Management System.

We have to be constantly aware of the fact that industries and technological development are created for human wants, basically for the better quality of life. Goods and services produced by the industry are for the fulfilment of human aspiration and safer living conditions. Hence, we cannot arrest industrial development, but we have to ensure that such development does not leave a trail of human suffering. With more and more sophisticated machinery and processes being introduced at workplaces, the need is increasing for more Environment, Health & Safety Management System.

Committed Towards Zero Harm Culture

At Siemens, EHS at work are central components of our corporate culture and an expression of our company’s responsibility for its employees. As part of our management responsibility, we ensure that everyone has a safe working environment at all times so that they return to their family and friends as healthy as when they started the day. We have integrated the EHS processes in our manufacturing strategy and project business. It has helped in enabling safe business, enhanced customer satisfaction, avoidance of non-conformance costs and execution delays, etc.

Our journey towards a Zero Harm culture, has helped us in fostering the employee’s mind-set that incidents are preventable by not compromising on safety and making it a habit to care for each other’s safety. While good safety performance is recognized and rewarded, safety violations due to negligent behaviour also see consequent actions.

Collaboration has accelerated by active contribution of employees in practicing good safety behaviour, identifying and reporting hazards and unsafe behaviour. We are further extending this to our channel partners in creating a safe environment, building robust systems and managing risks effectively through appropriate controls at all levels. This will ultimately go a long way in contributing to our company-wide programme of “Customer First.”

Pankaj Pathak, General Manager – EHS, Deepak Fertilisers & Petrochemicals Corporation Ltd.
Pankaj Pathak, General Manager – EHS, Deepak Fertilisers & Petrochemicals Corporation Ltd.

There has been a massive transformation in approach towards fire and safety in the last few years, with companies recognizing it’s a must-have rather than a choice. The change in attitude is primarily driven by two key factors. Firstly, as global compliance and safety standards continue to evolve, Indian organizations need to keep pace. Secondly, it has become a mandate for companies to comply with fire and safety standards to maintain their reputation and gain an edge in this fiercely competitive marketplace.

At Deepak Fertilizers, fire and safety has always been a top priority. Being a leading fertilisers and petrochemical company, we have a full-fledged EHS function that actively monitors, audits and inspects all fire and security systems.

We are committed to the safety of our staff including contract employees and have robust fire policy and safety procedures in place. Every year, we conduct a 4-day mandatory training program to raise awareness about safety procedures. We also involve all employees including contract employees in EHS through various EHS campaigns and safety committee meetings.

Focusing on Continuous Improvement

We believe that safety is a continuous process and keep investing in innovative systems. In FY18, we plan to deploy an EHS software, which complies with our needs and requirements. We shall also evaluate new, advanced products that confirm to international standards.

To facilitate stronger fire and safety practices, we expect manufacturers to launch innovative, user-friendly solutions that require minimum training and maintenance like fire extinguishing ball. We are emphasising more on UL approved products in the field of fire and safety for active and passive fire protection.