Safety is paramount at INEOS. But it has to be, because it operates in a hazardous environment. The year may have changed, but INEOS’ approach to personal and process safety won’t. If anything, it will become even more important and robust, as Stephen Yee explains.
Safety doesn’t just happen by accident. It takes a lot of hard work, and needs everyone – employees, employers and contractors – to understand what’s at stake when a company like INEOS gets it wrong.
“Our commitment to safety starts at the top as a core value of our company,” said Stephen Yee, Business Safety Health and Environment Manager based at INEOS ChlorVinyls in Runcorn, UK.
“We all know that the sustainable long-term future of our businesses rests on our track record on safety, health and the environment.”
Last year was a good year for INEOS despite its decision to switch to OSHA, (Occupational Health and Safety Administration) a stricter, US-based system of recording workplace accidents, injuries and illnesses so that others could judge its performance against the very best.
“We can now see that INEOS compares well against the likes of Shell and Dow Chemical,” said Stephen, who collates the Group’s safety reports. “But the data also shows that lower injury rates are achievable. Based on our own analysis, if we look back five years, we are approximately 50% better than we were in 2008. And in 2013 there were 70 fewer injuries reported.”
Last year was a particularly good year for INEOS O&P Europe North, which won the INEOS SHE award for the second time for its safety performance and for setting a good standard in process safety management.
Hans Niederberger, chief operations officer, said clear communication was one of the reasons for the business’ success last year, with SHE line managers tasked with the vital job of keeping everyone informed of what was expected.
“In addition every single site has its own score card regarding SHE improvements during the year and those cards are reviewed every month,” he said.
INEOS O&P Europe North reported four injuries during 2013.
“That led to a frequency of 0.12 injuries per every 200,000 hours worked,” he said. “A world-class frequency is deemed to be 0.20 to 0.25.”
Stephen said INEOS would be looking to the best sites to help the worst-performing sites in terms of safety.
“We can – and will – learn from how the best sites approach safety to improve the performance of all businesses,” he said.
At INEOS in Köln, a hard-hitting poster campaign, ‘Accidents cast long shadows’, was launched to encourage all staff to think of the potential consequences of their actions at work.
Juergen Schmitz, head of the occupational safety and health department whose job is also to deliver key messages about safety to almost 2,000 employees and 1,000 contractors on site, said the campaign had been well received but it was difficult to establish a link between that and the fact that the site’s safety record had improved.
“Many occupational safety-related components will have contributed to that improvement,” he said.
In addition to the campaign, he said, all trainees and managerial staff – from the shift managers to the Managing Director – had attended a mandatory training safety programme in 2013.
Looking back over a successful year, Stephen said there were some ‘outstanding milestones’.
No one, he said, had been injured at the INEOS ChlorVinyls plant in Sweden since December 30, 2010.
“To go 1,000 days without a recordable injury is something of which the plant should be very proud,” he said.
Helen Axelsson, who is in charge of safety, health, environment and quality assurance, attributed the plant’s impressive safety record to 10 years of focusing on employees’ behaviour.
“We have an open safety climate, where everyone could tell anyone if they think someone is working in an unsafe manner,” she said. “The last three to four years we have used the expression: ‘We always have time to work in a safe manner’ and I really think that everyone, both employees and contractors, feel that it is true.”
Last year each INEOS business also implemented – despite a challenging timescale set by themselves – the 20 key safety principles devised by INEOS’ process safety management team and based on actual incidents or ‘near misses’.
“We not only implemented them but each business has been independently audited,” said Stephen.
“The lead auditors were site and production management from other sites which encourages sites to share best practice.”
He said, though, that people should not worry unduly about statistics.
“Our focus is simple,” he said. “It’s one step at a time and to focus on what we can all do to prevent injuries to those who work on our sites. The good results will follow.”
But, as with most things, there is always room for improvement.
“I do find it frustrating that there are still injuries which happen that can be prevented if people stop and think before they act,” he said.
As a group, INEOS also wants each business to further improve its safety record by 10%.
“They are challenging SHE controls,” said Stephen. “But they are achievable.”