Cement plants can be dangerous places. There’s a reason for all the PPE. Yet, though awareness of safety issues has improved, and safety is more of a priority than ever, accidents still happen and in some cases these can be devastating. Every injury and life lost at a cement plant is preventable. There’s no reason to expect that someone going to work in the morning shouldn’t return safely home that evening.
Having worked in and around cement plants around the world for more than two decades, I have witnessed the full range of behaviours – from best practice to just plain dangerous. In my experience, being safe is a mind-set that can be encouraged with a few relatively simple techniques.
1) Make safety everyone’s responsibility
Who is responsible for keeping you safe? Is it the Safety Department, making sure that best practices are in place to keep you from harm? Is it your colleague, who will warn you if you’re in danger? Is it you, making sure you follow those practices, heed those dangers, and generally don’t put yourself in unnecessary harm?
The answer, of course, is all of the above. Everyone is accountable for safety. It’s a collective responsibility.
2) Keep safety fresh in people’s minds
We all get complacent. We’re all tempted to take short cuts now and again. But both these things can lead to accidents. Keep safety fresh in people’s minds using tools like:
• Signage. Whether you go for witty or hard-hitting, having plenty of signs around the place will make sure that personnel are constantly reminded of the dangers that surround them. A warning sign will go a long way, but also consider longer-form signs utilizing characters and scenarios with a strong safety message. These can be put up in places where your staff have more time to read.
• Toolbox talks. A brief talk at the start of every shift will help put safety in focus. Some people find it helpful to discuss specific safety concerns, some people talk about their families – i.e. their motivation for keeping safe, while others have found a general safety message about something outside of the plant is just as effective to get people thinking.
• Competitions. Incentivising safety is a good way to change people’s behaviours. More ideas on how to do this are included below.
Remember: whatever techniques you’re using to put safety front and centre in people’s minds will wear off after a while, so switch it up regularly for maximum impact.
3) Use the carrot….
Companies are naturally wary of introducing competitions to incentivise safe behaviours, but the cost of such an initiative is likely to be significantly less than the cost of having an accident. Plus, gamification is a proven method of inducing desired behaviours, so if it works why argue with it?
Incentives don’t have to be monetary. They could be things such as extra vacation hours for every X number of accident-free days, or a fun team-based activity for every quarter that passes without an incident. Experiment with a few ideas and see what gets the best response among your employees.
One thing to consider, though, is how to set up a rewards programme. You can only reward safe behaviour. Though it might be tempting to commend someone for helping another colleague avoid an accident, this is effectively a ‘near miss’ and cannot be rewarded under your general incentives scheme. When accidents happen, everyone loses.
4)…And the stick
Safety rules must be implemented with an iron fist. There can be zero tolerance for unsafe behaviours. Sanctions should be as clear as rewards so that there is no doubt as to the penalty for a breach.
That being said, it is critical that all near misses – and indeed minor accidents – are reported so that efforts can be made to avoid a repetition of the incident. It’s a good idea to factor in reporting to your carrot/stick approach to encourage full disclosure.
5) Show them how it’s done
Management and supervisors need to lead on safety all the time. That means attending toolbox talks, wearing PPE and engaging with any incentives the plant has running. If your management team can’t walk the talk, they should be subject to the same sanctions as everyone else. It’s really important that the entire plant staff plus any outsiders coming in are treated equally when it comes to safety. For example, it sends a very strong message to a plant visitor if they are not put through a safety induction when they arrive at your plant.
If you would like some help overhauling the safety protocols at your plant, give us a call. JAMCEM can run a full safety audit and help you implement new techniques and policy at your plant(s). For more information about our full range of services, visit www.jamcem.com.