The downward trend in the number of injuries among Elkem employees continued in 2015. The number of injuries requiring medical treatment ended at 10 which is an all-time low. This gives us a recordable rate of 1.8 injuries per million work hours, down from 5.3 in 2014, when we had 22 injuries. However, these positive results were overshadowed by a fatal accident with a contractor at the carbon plant in Brazil.
During a simple operation (changing a light bulb), the person came in contact with live electrical parts sending 230-volt electricity through his body. Even though first aid was done immediately by his colleagues, and professional medical help was given at the local hospital, they were not able to save his life. The fact that a simple every day task like changing a light bulb can result in a fatality shows how important it is to focus on the details and fully understand hazards with jobs before they are done. The incident was thoroughly investigated and analysed, and learning points were used to improve operation safety at all plants.
In addition to own employees, a substantial number of contractors work at Elkem sites in connection with cleaning, maintenance, transportation and project activities. Any contractor employee working on Elkem property is subject to the same EHS requirements as Elkem employees and receive training and follow-up to ensure that they have a safe and healthy working environment. In spite of this, statistics show that contractors have a higher recordable injury rate than our own employees. While injuries per million work hours are in the range of 1.3 to 4.5 for employees, the corresponding numbers for contractors are between 6 and 39. Elkem has therefore intensified contractor health and safety training and follow-up activities to ensure that they fully understand our values and requirements and know how to work safely.
Our statistics clearly show that it is possible to run difficult and potentially dangerous operations with a large work force without injuries. Several of our plants have achieved this for a number of years in succession. However, experience has taught us that zero injuries one year is no guarantee for injuries not occurring the following year. To ensure the success of our health and safety work, high awareness throughout the whole organisation at all times is crucial.
Elkem’s injury prevention principles are based on knowing and understanding the potential hazards, including their likelihood of happening and their potential consequences. Based on this knowledge we strive to work effectively to eliminate or reduce the risk to an acceptable level. Our statistics also show that the vast majority of all injuries are caused by individual behaviour with employees not taking the time and effort to understand and prevent possible hazards, not following prescribed safe working procedures and/or not using correct protective equipment. In addition to our standard tools like job observations and audits, a number of plants have also arranged awareness programs in 2015 helping people see the potential consequences of serious injury for each individual and their families. We have also seen that focus on behaviour is not just about individuals doing the wrong thing, but also about what causes certain behaviours and how we have to work with behaviour at all levels of the organisation.
The overall goal of our health and safety work is to reduce the likelihood of injuries. As our total recordable injury rate has been brought down 90 per cent in the last 10-15 years we have seen a vast improvement in equipment and facility safety. The way we work has also been changed. More operators find themselves in front of a computer and new challenges to the health and safety of our employees replace the old ones that we have solved. As safety has improved we can turn more of our attention to health issues caused by less physical activity and a changing working environment. One of the questions facing us today as an employer is how we can improve employees’ health, and not just protect them from injuries.
Focus is Elkem’s programme for health, safety and the environment in the workplace. Focus is closely linked to Elkem Business System (EBS). The emphasis is on continuous improvement and each employee’s involvement and responsibility to contribute to good results. Focus has five fundamental principles:
1. Improvement has no limits
2. Zero harm philosophy: All incidents and injuries can be prevented.
3. Incidents and/or injuries will always have one or more causes. Causes will always be associated with unsafe conditions, unsafe actions, or a combination of both. Reporting and investigating all incidents and injuries allows us to identify root causes and eliminate them before they cause more serious harm.
4. Effective prevention of harms requires hazard identification, risk analysis and the implementation of actions to reduce unacceptable risk to an acceptable level.
5. Success depends on all employess being actively involved in the health and safety work and sharing the responsibility for a safe working environment.
Assessed by the management
The status of Elkem’s health and safety work is discussed every week at division and group management level. Reporting and investigating all injuries, incidents and deviations are an important part of Elkem’s improvement work. All divisions provide reports on health and safety every month. Detailed presentations of the course of events that led up to an incident, including causes and lessons learned, are produced for all serious incidents. This enables the lessons learned to be shared between plants and divisions, and contributes to similar incidents being avoided in the future.