One only has to think of Texas city, Piper Alpha and the Deep Water Horizon to understand why INEOS puts safety as its highest priority. Incidents of such magnitude are thankfully very rare throughout the world but it is often smaller incidents that lead to the larger ones. Tackling these not only prevents injuries but also shapes people’s whole attitude to safety and the prevention of incidents.
Most of INEOS’ accidents are slips, trips and falls – or in Köln’s case, hand injuries. The campaign to address these at the site has been so successful that it is now being adopted by neighbouring businesses.
There’s a world of difference between listening and adopting. No-one is more aware of that than Jürgen Schmitz, whose job at INEOS Köln is to deliver the key messages about safety on site to almost 2,000 employees and 1,000 contractors day in, day out – and hope that they have listened and understood.
“It’s not an easy task,” he says. “It can be challenging to find new ways to make safety topics interesting for the audience. But it is so important because safety is paramount on our site.”
The number and severity of accidents on the 191-hectare site has constantly decreased in recent years. 98% of the accidents are behavioural related. Therefore, Jürgen and his team together with Holger Laqua, INEOS Oxide asset manager in Köln, decided to adopt a different approach and, for the first time, hired an advertising agency from Düsseldorf to help them develop an effective safety campaign.
“It proved to be a stimulating undertaking,” said Jürgen. “We are safety engineers and somehow blinkered technical types and they are all very creative and out-of- the-box thinking guys.
“So it was interesting to see and hear about safety interpreted by people who aren’t involved with safety issues every day like we are.
“As such, they came up with very fresh ideas.”
The advertising agency encouraged Jürgen, as head of the occupational health and safety department, and his team to think about safety from an employee’s viewpoint.
Working together they created six different scenarios for a series of hard-hitting posters. Each of these focused on an area where accidents are most likely to occur.
“Instead of hiring external people, we asked our employees if they would contribute as models for the pictures taken on site, in an environment that our staff would recognise,” he said.
The result was immediate. Employees could see themselves in each hazardous situation and could clearly visualise the potential danger.
So far three of the posters – all entitled ‘Accidents cast long shadows’ – have been unveiled. One shows an employee working in a confined space, another working at height and the third focuses on safe biking. The shadows in each picture reflect what could happen in the event of an accident.
“Those are all typically dangerous situations on site and for the chemical industry itself,” said Jürgen.
When each poster was launched, Jürgen and his team organised an interactive safety awareness day with simulators for employees to test their skills and knowledge. There was even a quiz with a prize.
Jürgen says the trigger for the campaign was the desire to make staff think about safety in a new, unknown way.
“It is all about psychology,” he said. “We want employees to stop for a minute and think before they start working.”
So far, the feedback from employees and contractors to the poster campaign has been positive. The message, it seems, has not only been heard, but understood.
In fact the campaign has been so effective and convincing that posters have been translated into Dutch, English, Italian and Norwegian to be used at other INEOS businesses and sites.
The campaign has also been praised by external organisations.
“Local authorities were very interested in what we were doing and asked to share the posters with other chemical companies in Germany,” said Jürgen.
On a personal level, Jürgen is proud of his team and what has been achieved so far.
“They have had a lot of fun working on this campaign. But we are aware that we still need to push the rock – safety is a constant Sisyphus labour.”