Blog: Steel Safety Day and the COVID-19 pandemic

Carlos Martínez

Manager, Safety & Health

12 October 2020

2020 has been a year full of challenges for the steel industry. On the one hand we have witnessed human and economic losses that significantly impact our current way of life and on the other we have been active participants in the response to and mitigation of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have learnt many lessons and it is important that we learn from and put into practice this newfound experience.

This year, due to the pandemic, Steel Safety Day will have to be different. In the normal course of events Steel Safety Day would have been on 28 April, aligned with the International Labour Organization’s World Day for Safety and Health at Work, and our members would have carried out detailed on-site management visits focusing on one of the 5 most common causes of serious incidents: moving machinery, working at height, falling objects, on-site traffic and process safety incidents.

This would have implied an unusually strong presence on the shop floor which was clearly impractical. Taking this into account, we delayed Steel Safety Day to 21 October. For the second year in a row we are asking our members to focus on Process Safety, recognising that everyone will have to be flexible in their approach. We are asking all our members to do what they feel they can to review their process safety approaches and tell us about it.

There are many aspects of process safety that our members can concentrate on, recognising that:

  1. The reasons for process safety incidents are not the same as those for personal safety incidents. Tracking Lost Time Injuries tells us almost nothing.  However, the prevention of losses of containment of hazardous substances or materials will help us understand and manage process safety management risks through excellence in operational and maintenance practices.
  2. To transform organisational performance, we need to change the paradigm. For example, eradicating any element of a blame culture which will probably disable effective learning from events. To achieve this is to change to a mindset that sees ‘safety’ not as the absence of incidents but rather a shared commitment to bring the process under control. Success comes from ensuring management ask and listen to workers to identify and understand real safety needs, rather than seeing safety management as telling workers what to do.
  3. The continuing transformation of our industry as we work to radically reduce CO2 emissions will introduce new risks. For example, what will the implications of using hydrogen from a process safety management perspective be?

Rightly managing COVID-19 has been getting a lot of attention in all our mills, but we need to remind ourselves constantly that all the 'conventional' safety and health risks are still there.

Thank you for your support on Steel Safety Day 2020, I'm looking forward to hearing how you all mark it this year.

Add your comment here:

  • 1

    We really need to take more care of employees and contractors during the pandemic phase considering the higher risk in any activity. People are afraid of the virus, dismiss it because of the economic situation, and at the end put their safety at risk. Leaders have an important role in checking the emotional condition of each one in their team before releasing them to work, especially in the production areas. It is really time to think in terms of people and not only follow procedures.

    avatarLeila KauffmannOct 12, 2020, 9:17:19 PMReply

  • 2

    Big money is now allocated for hydrogen usage in iron and steelmaking. A huge risk is the usage of water in combination with liquid steel. Alternatives like ionic liquids are already available. This alternative to explosive water could avoid hundreds of heavy incidents every year. But for safety there is to little money available, obviously.

    avatarHans-Jörg KrassnigOct 13, 2020, 1:07:37 PMReply

  • 3

    Health, wellness, safety and environment - are essential in industrial organizations, especially in the mining & metals industry. Business leaders, mentors and industry experts must ensure good compliance by every stakeholder within the workplace and beyond to achieve zero fatalities, mishaps and losses. This is a shared obligation to promote a culture of clean, safe and productive workplace, or rather an ecosystem with zero tolerance for any unhealthy, risky and substandard practices. Let us all pledge and commit to coming to work in the fittest condition, and promote circular health and wellness systems in the iron & steel industry. Together for a cleaner, healthier and happier workplace.

    avatarIqbal AZIMOct 13, 2020, 1:33:22 PMReply

* Required fields. Your email will not be published.