Importance of safety in organisations
Importance of safety in organisations

Importance of safety in organisations

Industrial safety in the organisation should not be a compliance gimmick but should be much deeper and wider to understand the basics of hardware, thoughtful integration of right software, and empowering/creating multiple teams with right mindware, writes
Ganesh Tripathy.

When we think of safety in heavy industries, the first thing comes to our mind is the Factory Act and its requirement on statutory compliance. The sidekicks from compliance standpoint starts rolling the safety wheel in organisations, which always had its sub-optimal effect on the manufacturing process and team. What all want is "zero injury" with half-hearted effort and pessimistic belief that it is possible.

Organisations always guard to avoid and avert the ethical/unethical harassment associated with compliance due to numerous plant injuries, fatality or LTI (lost time injury).

Within every organisation, this calls for making numerous documents like procedures, SOP, leading/laggig metrics tracker, files/posters and slogans. Does this make the safety management holistic or full proof? The answer probably is in well-known to most of us. On other side of the coin, this opens up an optimistic door to deploy alternate school of thought and calls for motivating Safety professionals to relook the concept with different set of eyes. While concentrating more on software, we often tend to neglect the issues related to hardware. The issues of cost management and hardship acts as barrier for Safety professionals and they often find it difficult to sell safety in the board room competing with cost, IRR, cash flow and EBIDTA battle. Most of the times we sail through with country made "jugads" and hard work but sometimes we get trapped in situations where our confidence on safety management starts shaking up. The barriers in "Mindware" for making Safety management system effective and holistic escalates our hardship and we start searching for excuses at all levels of organisation for risks and failures affecting business and mankind.

Industrial safety in the organisation should not be a compliance gimmick but should be much deeper and wider to understand the basics of hardware, thoughtful integration of right software, and empowering/creating multiple teams with right mindware. So in this article, I am trying to touch upon issues which need introspection with "Back to Basics" approach. Safety is a common sense but uncommonly practiced and implemented across in most of the industries. Let's for a moment focus on the widely followed hierarchy of safety control in most of the organisations and see where we can link PtD.

Right hardware: Need safety at design stage to eliminate hazards
While procuring an equipment during green field or brownfield expansion projects, safety rarely get a front seat and in most cases. Corners are cut for want of right safety aspect impact mapping or from cost/IRR standpoint. I had seen projects where during procurement and installation of machines, guards supplied by OEM found to be inadequate and the Project Proponents compelled to spent huge resources for modifying before start up only after failing post pre-start up safety audits and review.

National/international standards do exist for 360 degree machine guarding and mistake proof guards but this aspect really becomes meaningless in tender documents, PO and at design stage by OEM. Project managers remained often busy in managing project schedule and cost tracking and the poor safety manager's struggles to comply and justify their job through retrofitting with additional resource and substandard work at site.

By considering safety at design stage, the lifecycle cost of equipment becomes less and safety aspects considerably improve. E.g: One of the components of the heavy industry is material handling and for that we need belt conveyors in different sizes and shapes. One common gap observed is regarding the right quality of side and end guards, which is inadequate enough to eliminate hand in machine risk. Most of the organisations fabricate guards locally post installation leading to high cost and poor quality guards lacking adequate safety interlocks. This never finds its place in main drawing and safety interlocks never integrated with operating system architecture.

This one aspect probably injures/kills multiple people in material handling activity in manufacturing plants. Sometimes it becomes difficult to punch in the idea of elimination at drawing room to protect cost of equipment/IRR during manufacturing.

Substitutes suggest managing through administrative control rather than engineering control and safety rolls out as usual in documents and SOPs. We prefer to start with the last layer of protection through PPE fully knowing that the route is least effective.

Here comes the concept of Prevention through Design (PtD), which is probably new to most of us. Dr OB Krishnana and Team at IIT Kharagpur are busy in developing this concept with much deeper meaning and associate deployable tools. As per definition PtD focuses on addressing occupational safety and health needs in the design process to prevent or minimise the work-related hazards and risks associated with the construction, manufacture, use, maintenance, and disposal of facilities, materials and equipment.

The steps which help in deep diving the PtD concept are:

  • Moving safety from an afterthought to a forethought in the design of facilities, processes , and productsConsideration of hazards and risks that would be moved as far upstream as possible in the design process/ planning in redesign process
  • Upstream includes all aspects of the orientation of business concepts, the relative decision making, and the design process, during which the greatest effectiveness can be achieve in hazard avoidance, elimination, or control in critical process like pyro and heavy engineering application
  • Barrier effectiveness rating system also to be put in place with escalation factor control

Potential barriers and issues faced in actual operating scenario are:

  • Lack of knowledge: This is not covered in engineering syllabus or handy available with equipment designers and hence the designers/engineers do not possess adequate knowledge on actual safety interlocks considering the Indian workforce on site
  • Ownership: Designers do not want to take the ownership of the hazards and its effects. While federal laws made designers responsible, Indian law and standards are inadequate to cover this. The factory act puts the emphasis on occupier and manager for mishaps and not the designer or supplier of equipment.
  • Misconception: Safety interlocks are costlier and hence equipment loose competitive edge. Key focus on initial cost and life cycle cost totally ignored.
  • Intentionally buy cheaper equipment or push the hazards to downstream. Difficult to identify hazards and interventions and post erection scenario do as little as manageable. More focus on site management "jugad".
  • Capacity upgradation/retrofitting: neither takes away all the hazards nor addresses the engineering controls in total. Some weak links left out at every site probably to check the intellectual level of Safety managers.
  • This may not be the true case for all organisations; progressive safety oriented organisations following holistic safety concepts have moved the needle to total elimination stage through right engineering control and eliminated substandard or dubious administrative control steps.

We need change: How agile our software?
Administrative control most of the time fall flat in Indian context due to lack of education and risk assessment capabilities of grass root workforce. Understanding safety at working stage need real time risk assessment and not a typed or documented SOP. Which need more "Boots on Ground" from supervisors and engineers daily to access the on job risk and creating a real time mitigation plan. This demands for an empowered team with positive software support across all sections of organisation starting from recruitment to promotions where safety baseline need to be mapped as key requirement for talent sourcing and retaining right talent at right place. Ownership of integrating safety as base line at every level of organisation must be clearly defined that to with strong cultural back up and belief that every incident can be prevented. Supervisors and managers must be authorised to stop unsafe job if risk factor is not mitigated then and there at site for the working team. The understanding, experience, motivation and commitment pledge a very vital role in safety. Hence progressive organisations need to define operation and support processes as part of right software to improvise safety DNA for zero injury.

How do we create sustainable & vibrating mindware
It's every organisation's DNA test. People are most valuable asset and their lives need to be protected. For that self believe that every incident is preventable ômust be injected at all levels of organisation. As per Dupont, you will get the level of safety excellence what you demonstrate and what we want. Ironically we all want zero Injury but when it comes to self-demonstration we take short cut and probably demonstrate that rule s are made for others and not for us. Senior/middle management in most organisations fall prey to this syndrome where they remain vocal about safety rules but lack practicing it.

That's the reason some one travel without safety belt in car and helmet in motorcycle. Probably they do all these violations when they are out of plant and demonstrate daily in their personal life giving complex signals to the next generations and society. Persons operating with dual mask hamper safety more than improving it. That's why some feels by evading safety values they grow in organisation fast as they are good "Jugad" masters and so called cost evangelists. Have we created agile organisation to address the issues and committed to change. The sooner we change will the better for mankind and humanity. Doing so in true sense, our country can be leagued with developed countries on safety aspect and impact.

Things can change if we accept to change. Every change is painful while becoming gainful from other perspectives. Safety team's proactive engagement with OEM and organisation culture plays a vital role in this. Today we also can also sell safety as this makes perfect business sense through renewed prospective. Regulators and law makers also should look into these benefits and amend the regulations appropriately. One key activity can be done by universities and engineering institutions by introducing PtD in course curriculum to wider the concept and bring safety into driving seat.

The views expressed in this article are the personal view point of the author and not linked to any company or its safety practices to be specific.

Learning from Dr O.B Krishnan, IIT, Kharagpur and Dupont Safety Solution.


Ganesh Chandra Tripathy, Current Director Plant, ACC Chaibasa Cement Works, has decade long experience in OH&S and Sustainability across organisations like Unilever (South Asia), HZL, Jubilant Life Science and ACC. Safety behavioural observation in multi country and multi-site set up has helped him to understand true management issues on safety with hands on mitigation programme aligning Organisations for Holistic Safety improvement Plan. He can be contacted on: 8800693097 |

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