Putting Safety ahead of Production
Putting Safety ahead of Production

Putting Safety ahead of Production

Preventive OSH is gaining popularity among cement companies, as that proves to be a business case for them when huge costs and reputation are at stake on the flipside.

Focus on occupational safety and health (OSH) is increasing in India, while it is at a long way to go before it reaches the global best practices. However, cement industry in India, being a highly organised industry, is much ahead of several other sectors, though it is yet to catch up with the best.

Though big organisations are doing better or willing to do even better in safety aspect, the challenge lies in bringing the organisations and enterprises at the bottom of the pyramid - micro, small, and medium enterprises, where awareness of critical importance of occupational safety and health is very low.

International Labour Organization (ILO) Director - General Guy Ryder said during the opening ceremony of the XXI World Congress on Safety and Health at Work on September 3, 2017, at the global level, the impact of not investing in Safety nearly equals to the combined gross domestic product of 130 poorest countries in the world.

ILO also unveiled estimates showing that, worldwide, 2.78 million workers die each year as a result of occupational injuries and illnesses. Of those, approximately 2.4 million are linked to work-related disease. The total cost of illnesses, injuries and deaths was 3.94 per cent of the global GDP, or $2.99 trillion. According to another estimate, the figure is 10-20 per cent of their GDP for Asian nations.

Exposure to dust and high temperatures, contact with allergic substances, and noise exposure can be defined as hazards associated with health; while falling/impact with objects; hot surface burns; and transportation, working at height, slip/trips/falls can be defined as hazards associated with safety.

Manufacturing hazards
While the stages of core processes of cement manufacturing are mining of limestone, limestone crushing/grinding, fuel preparation, burning of raw meal, cement grinding, material handling, packing and transportation of raw material and finished goods, Sanjay Joshi, Chief Manufacturing Officer, Nuvoco Vistas Corp Ltd, classified major hazardous areas into five - Mining of limestone, material handling and rushing/grinding, clinkerisation process, coal handling in clinkerisation process, and uncontrolled fire. (See interview in the following pages)Concrete manufacturing process has its own areas of potential hazard - Inside the concrete plant, where concrete is manufactured; during transport of concrete by "transit mixers" from plant to various construction sites; and at the construction sites where the concrete is delivered by static or mobile pumps, says Prashant Jha, Chief Concrete and Aggregates, Nuvoco Vistas Corp. Ltd.

If one has to classify potential hazards in cement and concrete industries based on the severity of impact, dust emissions are one of the most significant impacts of cement manufacturing and associated with handling and storage of raw materials (including crushing and grinding of raw materials), solid fuels, transportation of materials (e.g. by trucks or conveyor belts), kiln systems, clinker coolers, and mills, including clinker and limestone burning and packaging/bagging activities. Packaging is the most polluting process (in terms of dust) in cement production, says Vinay Pathak, Senior General Manager & Subject Matter Expert - APAC Region, Personal Safety Division, 3M India Ltd.

Harmful gases and vapours, wet concrete, and high heat & thermal effects, particularly in raw mill and preheater tower, hot clinker, precipitator and bypass dust and hot cement, follow dust emissions in these manufacturing processes, besides several physical hazards occurring in the process of movement of goods.

Remedial measures
Given the huge cost OSH accidents or events in manufacturing plants can cause and reputation risk involved, cement manufacturers are taking preventive measures by adhering to compliance measures meticulously to safeguard their employees' safety and health.

"All the areas in the plants are surveyed and signages have been displayed about the hazard and a safety manual is also provided to the employees. Workers carry out a daily cleaning procedure along with changing of bag filters as per OEMs manual. As a protocol, plant personnel need to wear PPEs, PPS-2 nose mask, earmuffs at high noise areas and aluminium suits in hot zones before carrying any process," says Ujjwal Batria, Chief Operating Officer, Dalmia Cement (Bharat) (See interview) Dalmia cement has also built green zones across the plant vicinity and at different points to minimise the impact on the environment. Water cooler points with rest shelters are provided across all plants and ORS is provided during summer season. Effective control measures help us to achieve our mission of zero harm, Nuvoco claims, while listing the measures they have taken to avoid or control various hazards in mining and transportation, burn injury during clearing of blocked cyclone, and in coal shop, fine coal bin and bag houses. Its concrete plants are established considering engineering and administrative control of all hazards.

As an effective hazard prevention and management strategy, "health and safety policy should be adapted with other policies of the company. Additionally, risk management policy of company should be developed, and risk assessment should be performed regularly and efficiently," says Pathak. 3M is a leading personal protection equipment (PPE) manufacturer for cement and concrete manufacturing plants as well.

There is no doubt that benefits outweigh monetary cost and reputation risk for companies and physical pain and disruption in life of employees. So, it is imperative that companies embrace safe working practices and the mindset shift should happen from "Production first, Safety later" to "Safety-first productivity".

Though the willing bigger companies have mastered the art of internal communication relating to potential hazards, reporting of hazards by companies is yet to be streamlined. To evolve appropriate strategies in OSH, reasonable amount of data is necessary. Regulatory mechanism needs to be tightened to ensure this happens. About a year back, the then Director General, National Safety Council, VB Sant said at a seminar "If you take a scale of 1-10 and if your goal is to achieve 10, I think we are between two to three only, if one is being honest about it and in the light of measures adopted in advanced countries."

Sant had urged that OSH targets should be linked to various government schemes for building a robust safety culture in corporate entities as part of promoting "Make in India" (MII) scheme. MII was launched in September 2014 to make the country a global manufacturing hub. MII can be made successful only by ensuring that manufacturing is also "Safe in India".

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