Occupational safety and health standards and performances have been consistently acknowledged as being among the best in the ArcelorMittal group.
Poor safety performance
ArcelorMittal South Africa endured an extremely disappointing 2014 in terms of employee and contractor safety.
This was due to our poor performance in the third quarter, with three work-related fatalities and a sharply worse safety performance as measured by our key indicators which include fatalities and LTIFR (as well as disabling injury frequency rate) and the total injury frequency rate (TIFR).
Five people died on our premises this year, four of them in work-related tragedies. Four of the five people who lost their lives worked for contractors or subcontractors.
Our lost time injury frequency rate (LTIFR) stood, at year-end, at 0.58, 25 employees sustaining workplace injuries that required them to miss work (2013: 27), a reduction in actual LTIs but a deterioration against our 2013 LTIFR of 0.56.
With the exception of the tragic case of a subcontractor who died when he was trapped behind a reversing truck at a Vanderbijlpark offloading bay, our safety performance in the first half of 2014 indicated that we were making some progress on our journey towards zero harm, our half-year LTIFR standing at 0.54.
Until 12 May 2014 we had not suffered a fatality since September 2011. Safety and occupational health standards and performances had been consistently acknowledged as being among the best in the ArcelorMittal group.
In Q4 our safety performance did improve somewhat with our total injury frequency rate declining from 17.86 in Q3 to 14.54.
Monitoring and auditing safety
Since 2012 the number of shop-floor audits (SFAs) increased from 138 239 to 263 143 in 2014. Our commitment to visible felt leadership was further entrenched with management continuing to spend significant amounts of time interacting with shop-floor employees to highlight and discuss safety issues.
ArcelorMittal South Africa rigorously monitors safety performance across all business units and operations. Near hits, unsafe acts and unsafe conditions are closely monitored and reported to the management committee on a monthly basis. (The decline in near hits and unsafe acts in Q4 bears out the effectiveness of the heightened focus on workplace safety.)
Unless people feel safe working at ArcelorMittal South Africa it will be difficult to cultivate a high performance culture, failure to achieve which will undermine our ability to drive profitability – a key objective which underpins our ability to create value for all stakeholders.
A measure of the weight the company attaches to safety is the fact that this year 387 individuals received formal warnings for tolerating or overlooking potential hazards; 40 were suspended and five dismissed. Those disciplined included one manager and one supervisor.
All plants now implement behaviour-based care (BBC), an internationally practised safety protocol that has proven its efficacy. First piloted at Vanderbijlpark in 2012, all sites now carry out BBC, the principles and practices of which are consistently communicated in four languages.
Doing things differently
In executing our new CEO’s directive to establish “what we are going to do differently”, the safety and health teams prioritised five key areas:
- With immediate effect, all potentially high-risk actions or projects, including those in non-production or remote areas, have to be signed off by the relevant plant general manager.
- Changing shop-floor communications so that employees themselves identify risks and hazards, avoiding instances of “hazard blindness”.
- Closing the loops on lessons learnt survey (LLS), dangerous acts, dangerous conditions and near hits.
- A renewed focus on managing the quality of pre-shift, morning and shift-change meetings. Managers have been instructed to attend more of these important points of interaction.
- Rigorously tackling violations of safety codes in terms of our disciplinary protocols.
It was decided, in the third quarter, to appoint process specialists rather than plant specialists as safety officers, to objectively identify potential hazards.
In the second half of 2014 a renewed drive to enforce adherence to Fatality Prevention Standards (FPS) was carried out. A particular emphasis in this regard was on the safety performance and FPS compliance of contractors and subcontractors.
Four of the five fatalities that occurred on ArcelorMittal South Africa premises in 2014 were suffered by contractor or subcontractor employees. This regrettable fact bore out a concern that has tasked management’s minds for some years: that contractor employees typically do not undergo the same rigorous safety induction, training and ongoing supervision as do our own staff. Nor are the same standards of compliance and discipline enforced among contractor and subcontractor employees, supervisors and managers.
In addition, contractor employees often lack the skills sets and education necessary to assimilate and practise safety protocols and behaviour. Another area of ongoing concern is the priority that contractor supervisors attach to SFAs. Despite their staff representing almost a quarter of all FTE (fulltime equivalent) work carried out at our sites this year, contractor SFAs and plant audits actually carried out represented just 15% of the total SFAs conducted in 2014.
This year all company sites maintained an FPS Level 3 rating, a widely recognised quality benchmark. As of the third quarter, all new vendors were expected to achieve and maintain the same Level 3, failing which they would not be engaged or their services would be terminated.
A particular area of concern relates to so-called man-vehicle interaction. Two of the four work-related deaths reported in 2014 were caused when individuals on foot (both of whom were employed by contractors or subcontractors) were impacted by moving trucks.
Such was the concern elicited by these fatalities that the ArcelorMittal South Africa health and safety manager undertook extensive interaction and lobbying among a range of authorities, including the national Department of Transport, which interaction has catalysed efforts to the extent that a white paper proposing the mandatory installation of side run-in protection on trucks is expected to be published for comment early in 2015.
In the second quarter, all units initiated “man-vehicle interaction management action teams” tasked with identifying and mitigating particular vehicular hazards at their sites.
Future safety strategy
We have set ourselves the objective of reducing our LTIFR and DIFR to sustained levels below 0.41 and 0.77 by 2019.
These objectives, and our belief that they are achievable, are informed by our past experience as well as that of the ArcelorMittal group, the universally accepted Bird Pyramid principles, an extensive literature and best-practice review and an informed evaluation of what is possible in our particular context.
In particular, disciplinary and incentive measures to achieve our key safety performance indicators will be rigorously enforced. This will apply, particularly, to those sites that failed to maintain an FPS Level 3 rating, which will be subject to additional supervision and re-audit.
Health and wellness
Our occupational disease frequency rate improved this year (0.08 against 0.17 in 2013). There were three cases of noise induced hearing loss (2013: six). There were no cases reported this year of pneumoconiosis, silicosis and asbestosis – a pleasing result ascribed to increased training and awareness.
In the year reviewed, strenuous efforts were made to bring our employee health standards to a par with ArcelorMittal group and Health Risk Reduction Toolkits were implemented at all sites, while a coke oven health forum was established.
Employee wellness continued to receive considerable attention and resources this year. Interactions under the Workplace Wellness (Wow) programme, carried out by consultants Ndlovu Care Group, far exceeded targets, some 9 122 interactions with employees taking place. (These included outreach activities, chronic disease management and HIV counselling and treatment.)
2014 key safety statistics by business unit
|Restricted workday cases (RWDCs)||6||8||11||1|
|Lost time injuries||10||2||9||2|
|Safety shop-floor audits (SFAs) *||98 169||75 589||34 735||19 316|
* Reported by plant and contractor management