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Industrial safety leaves no room for compromise

Safety and well-being for all staff and stakeholders is vital for every company operating in the industry sector. While international statistics show a decline in recordable incident or accident rates over the past decades, there are still fatalities and severe accidents that result in personal tragedies and heavy business impacts. These could all have been prevented through proactive safety management. A well-designed and implemented safety management system enables an up to 20% reduction in insurance costs, and a 5% increase in productivity.

Ensuring safety is a fundamental requirement for the continuation of business operations for any industrial company. Safety requirements are governed by several laws and regulations, which set the minimum level for companies to optimise their safety matters. However, if safety is embedded in company culture and proactive safety management becomes the core of business strategy then the foundation is set to help reach highest levels of wellbeing and profitability. When safety management is made a natural part of everyday work and the entire staff is committed to safety, we are well on the way to being a safer workplace.

Safety as part of the corporate culture

A safety culture can be defined in many different ways. The three-level definition used in organisational culture research is also often used in the definition of safety culture. In this concept, the safety culture depth levels are the surface, middle, and deep levels. The visible surface level includes technology, products, and guidelines. On the semi-visible, intermediate level are the organisation’s values, strategies and goals. At the deepest, hidden level are unconscious basic assumptions that have evolved over the course of the organisation’s existence. When it comes to safety culture, the deepest level, the behavioural safety, is the most important. It affects the other levels, as well as management and human behaviour: what people do when nobody else is watching. Leading global companies in safety have determined over the last decade that through addressing the behavioural factors first, incidents can be further reduced.

Creating the company’s safety culture requires a top-down approach. The CEO must take responsibility for it, and the management must be genuinely committed to safety as well. The safety culture that is implemented must be relevant to the company’s operations, and each person must contribute to it and own the further development of it., Safety culture, in a nutshell, is what and how things are done at the workplace, and how few risks are taken and tolerated. A so-called ‘Zero-tolerance’ policy sets the expectation and goals.

Building a sound and well-functioning safety culture requires commitment, time, and effort at all levels of the organisation.

The different approach of process safety and occupational safety

Process safety is part of the overall safety entity in process plants. In this entity, occupational safety and process safety can be broken down into their separate areas through obligations, standards, and management practices. Where occupational safety is easier to understand (including cleanliness, order, work instructions, occupational hygiene, personal protective equipment, as well as through a safe working environment and working practices), process safety is a more hidden matter.

Process safety aims at preventing production or operational accidents, equipment damage, production interruptions, and harmful emissions. Process safety accidents are less common than accidents at, for example, the home office. However, their effects are, at worst, extremely serious and costly damages to people, the environment, property as well as the company brand.

Technical understanding of the processes and functions of a plant is the key to ensuring process safety,. Safety assessments led by seasoned experts detect the possible HSE risks in practices, procedures or technical solutions. The efforts that are undertaken to improve the safety of facilities are often aimed at finding the right technical solution first. Human behaviour and organisational leadership are equally important and need to be addressed.

Investment project safety, step by step

When a company is planning a new investment, steps must be taken to ensure safety at every phase of the project. And safety measures should also be taken into account when creating project schedules and cost estimates. Carefully planned safety solutions that are implemented throughout the entire course of the project cost considerably less than having to exchange installed equipment, and are significantly better than learning through accidents that could have been prevented. Project safety responsibilities, risk assessments, and other safety measures are described in the project specific safety plan.

In the early stages of a project’s life cycle, special attention must be paid to inherent safety, in which safety is taken into account in, for instance, the replacement of hazardous chemicals with less harmful chemicals. This is done by simplifying processes, separating dangerous operations from other activities, minimising the duration and intensity of exposure to chemicals, and designing the correct process procedures.

During the detailed engineering phase, the most appropriate installations and pipelines must be selected for the chemicals handled in the facility’s usage environment and operating conditions. Safety measures and systems, for example automated gas detection and safety automation systems, must be specified in proportion to the nature and severity of risk involved in the activities.

Throughout the implementation phase of the project, steps must be taken relating to the construction safety and behavioural safety ensuring that all of the project safety management procedures are followed.

Continuous development with proactive safety indicators

“What you measure is what you get.” Correctly selecting safety indicators and monitoring them is an essential part of safety. There are two types of safety indicators: reactive and proactive. If an organisation uses only reactive measures, it may be lulled into complacency and a false sense of safety, making it unable to notice future safety risks. With the aid of proactive measures, the safety of facilities can be continuously developed, even when accidents or near-misses have not occurred. There is a proven relation between the application of proactive (or leading) indicators such as safety observations, safety walks, safety trainings, and toolbox talks, with the avoidance of incidents. Therefore the measurement of these leading indicators is of prime importance and assists in creating a proactive safety culture.

Did you know? One-stop shop for all industrial safety services

Our safety experts have a deep technical background, so our understanding of the functionalities and processes in plants adds unique value to our safety services. We offer comprehensive safety services to the industry sector, from permitting, authority issues and risk analyses all the way through to comprehensive safety management services. In addition, for investment projects we provide safety services through our own ‘Safety Stepwise’ process. With the help of this process, safety matters related to projects are systematically dealt with from the project development stage until commissioning. Our global network of experts is up to date with best practices, local legislation and regulations, enabling us to offer the best possible know-how, wherever your company is operating.

We believe that all accidents are preventable. Our own safety is the cornerstone of our culture – it’s in our DNA. This is a unifying, fundamental part of everything we do. Thanks to our safety focus, we are the best partner to clients complying with strict safety standards. Our main goal is the protection of all those involved in a project, including the clients’, our and subcontractors’ employees.

"Safety is not only a business enabler, but a precondition. Without a world class safety culture, practices, management, and systems monitoring, we would not be able to work in this field."


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Anna Savunen - Head of Global HSE Services

Anna Savunen

Head of Global HSE Services

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