"Attention to safety at the workplace has been strategically institutionalized at Essar Logistics," says Mr Dattatray Gore, head of quality and health, safety and environment (HSE) management, explaining the process the company followed, "We first paid attention to the 'Must Have' elements, involving compliance to statutory and regulatory requirements. Next came the 'Needed' elements — such as the implementation of measures to meet ISO and OHSAS Standards."
Take for instance the statutory requirements stipulated under the Central Motor Vehicles Act / Rules and the Motor Transport Workers Act, which describe standards and procedures for the safety and fitness of the driver, vehicle and cargo. Compliance to these requirements is usually tracked through the company's Register of Regulation, but at Essar Logistics even the 'Must Have' elements of instituted safety measures go much beyond the legal mandate, with the senior management leadership prioritizing excellence in HSE standards.
Innovation for excellence
In safety, as in everything the company does, innovation is the norm.
An enterprise information software system (prepared initially by Essar Shipping) has also been installed to monitor every logistics activity. This includes activities such as statutory inspections of equipment, audits, management reviews, etc. The HSE team and other relevant personnel receive an alert well in advance so that they can prepare before any activity falls due.
Another software-based system — based on recording biometric data — is the 'smart driver' monitoring system, which monitors the driver's health and safety records, including the training he has undergone.
An innovative 'PPE Passport System' was developed principally for the 1,500-plus contractual workforce. Under this, a 'Passport' and an 'Entitlement Chart' are created with a Unique Identification Number for each employee. All personal protective equipment (PPEs) is issued against this unique number, thus ensuring regular monitoring of whether the equipment is being used correctly or not.
Training to be safe
Modules for training — arguably the single most important element in the company's safety management structure — have been designed on the basis of careful research. By using a 3x3 Risk Matrix, researchers identified six critical trades that have potential to cause serious injuries and property damage. The 600-plus associate employees working in these risky trades were given classroom as well as practical training and assessed on the ground before being allowed to execute any job.
In another training initiative, professional instructors train drivers in plant safety, highway safety, fuel conservation, HIV/AIDS prevention as well as protective measures for overall disease control. Close to 33,000 underwent this training in 2010 and 2011. "Improving the leading indicators naturally improves the lagging index," says Mr Gore, adding that the HSE team proactively conducted inspections, audits, mock drills and other such exercises.
Training on use of PPEs (personal protective equipment) includes educating all crew members and visitors about the need to wear proper safety gear, such as reflector jackets and helmets, in the loading bays and yards. The company has prepared some 500 kits for such use, of which about 300 kits are in rotation on site at any given time. About 140,000 such kits have been issued to drivers and helpers on vehicles for their safety in off-site operations.
An anonymous Perception Survey was conducted among the contractual workers — who constitute 95 per cent of the total workforce — to arrive at the best methods of communication on safety practices and identify training requirements. Accordingly, safety awareness campaigns — such as 'Safety' weeks and months, 'Safety Friendship Day', 'Road Safety Week', among others — were designed to impact safety-related behavior both on-site and off-site. Conducted regularly, many of these are linked to an annual theme; for 2013, the theme is 'Accidents brings tears, Safety brings cheers'.
To get people thinking and talking about safety issues, employees are encouraged to come forward and share personal experiences of road accidents that they suffered or that have seen or heard about from relatives and friends. The lessons learnt are circulated to all, with an invitation to submit a 'Safety Appeal' as part of a contest; the three best appeals are rewarded.
Unique people needs
With 95 per cent of the jobs in the company being outsourced, "and our performance depending largely on the performance of the contractual workforce, their well-being is crucial," says Mr Gore. To ensure the workers are free from worries and remain focused on their day-to-day jobs, the HSE team has established the Employee Safety Concern Process (ESCP), which funnels any concerns to the 'People's Voice Cell'.
The ESCP not only records personal concerns regarding safety matters, it registers all manner of grievances affecting safety. Of particular help to drivers and other operators has been its facility to record complaints regarding traffic violations by Safety Marshals. The voice recording system has improved the reporting system by recording and redressing traffic grievances speedily. Every morning the grievances recorded by the system are retrieved and taken up for redress.
The company also addresses health issues, not only to help the workforce, but also as a crucial safety measure. Given that the industry has a large floating population of drivers and helpers, who are constantly on the move, the likelihood of contracting various diseases is high. The company has set up the Khushi Clinic to provide primary treatment and also medicines at subsidized rates (involving discounts of as much as 30 per cent on the MRP).
Realizing the fact that fatigue is one of the major contributory factors and causes for road accidents, the HSE team periodically conducts relaxation programs for drivers. Systems have also been instituted to provide safeguards against drinking and driving, including 'alcohol checks' with a breath analyzer, which were instituted in May 2009.
Regular PUC (pollution under control) checks are undertaken for the 140-plus vehicles — including trailers, tippers and passenger vehicles — owned by the company. On the advice of the local road transport organization, radium strips have been pasted on the back of all the 9,700-plus trailers operated by the company.
The company has also restructured marshaling yards so as to make them safer. In order to eliminate reversing, it has provided a safe layout with uni-directional routes for the movement of trailers. This has helped to significantly reduce the accidents that occur while reversing.
Successes and the way forward
The incidence of damage and extent of lost-time incidents (LTIs) has fallen significantly in the last six years, says Mr Gore, adding that this has happened despite new equipment being pressed into operation and work-hours doubling. Within the overall improvements, however, he emphasizes that safety performance has been best in the heavy lift and steel cargo handling segment.
The company's HSE team is now looking forward to attaining ISO 39001 certification. Following this, it aims to integrate its ISO 14001, OHSAS18001 and ISO 9001 systems with the ISO 39001 so as to have a single system.
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