The chemical industry is one of the most dynamic and forward-thinking. It has led to medical breakthroughs, transformed the way energy is used and is helping to reduce greenhouse gases. But the public doesn’t always see it that way, and to those, who work for INEOS, it can be frustrating, especially when the company has just recorded its best-ever safety performance
ACCIDENTS were commonplace during the Industrial Revolution. Workers, many of them children, often toiled for hours in dreadful conditions.
In 1842 a German visitor noted that he had seen so many people on the streets of Manchester in the North of England without arms and legs that it was like ‘living in the midst of an army just returned from a campaign’.
Thankfully those days are long gone.
Accidents still do happen but the dangers of exposing workers to asbestos, lead, silica, carbon monoxide and cotton dust are known, and organisations, like OSHA and the HSE, exist to ensure companies abide by the laws of the land.
It would appear, though, that the public continues to perceive the chemical industry as an inherently unsafe business.
“It is frustrating because we know that this is not the case,” said Simon Laker, INEOS Group Operations Director.
Simon recently gave a talk to the insurance market to explain INEOS’ approach to safety, its operations and its management of risk.
During his presentation he referred to the latest statistics from pan-industry OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration), the strict, US-developed, but worldwide used, system of recording workplace accidents, injuries and illnesses.
The results showed that some industries had significantly more accidents than others. Topping the list was manufacturing, closely followed by the construction industry where four in every 100 employees had been injured.
The overall petrochemical industry, however, fared much better – with INEOS’ performance even better than that.
“People were very impressed with our approach to safety and managing risk and recognised the relentless improvement as borne out by the statistics over many years,” said Simon.
Last year INEOS recorded its best-ever safety performance at OSHA rate of 0.32 (0.32 injuries per 100 full-time employees).
What made that safety record even more impressive was that INEOS achieved it whilst acquiring businesses from companies that do things differently.
“We now have more than 80 sites across 16 countries operating many different technologies, processes and thousands of procedures, monitored across hundreds of thousands of data points,” said Simon. “But it is because of our focus on safety that we continue to see improvement, despite our growth. That ability – to seamlessly integrate new businesses into its safety and operations approach – was actually highlighted by the insurance industry.”
Simon told INCH that staff were expected to report all incidents because INEOS believed that was the best – and only – way to ensure valuable lessons were learned every time.
“The public should be more confident in a company that reports issues, even minor ones, rather than one which says it has nothing to report,” he said. “It is clear to us which company takes health and safety seriously and which is brushing it under the carpet.”
Complacency, though, will always be the biggest danger – and that is something INEOS guards against.
“Our aim is always to continually improve so that we have zero incidents,” said Simon. "Only then will we be happy.”