Around the world at voestalpine, we follow one guiding principle: safety always comes before quality and productivity. In mid-October, over 100 voestalpine employees from 20 countries came together at the Health & Safety Days to exchange ideas in an international setting.
“We either work safely or we don’t work at all.” This is the no-nonsense, concise summary given by Franz Gleiss, Chief Health & Safety Officer at voestalpine, on the significance of workplace safety at the company. The primary goal of an active safety culture in the workplace is for all employees to come to work safely and return home unharmed. Over the last few years, the injury frequency rate across the Group has been considerably reduced. But for Franz Gleiss, this is not a reason to sit back and relax.
Injury frequency rate: Vision Zero
Quite the opposite, in fact, as the health and safety officers have much more planned.
"We have already reduced the global injury frequency rate by 56%. In order to achieve our vision of zero workplace accidents and no work-related illnesses, we need the support of all our employees."
This critical issue is therefore being managed at voestalpine as a Group-wide collaboration with a committee structure. The Health & Safety Board also ensures that full commitment extends to executive level. Key staff lead the health and safety initiatives in each of the four divisions, according to their specific requirements. After all, each company faces different risks, so that a one-size-fits-all solution is not appropriate. Within the Group, a broad range of procedures and approaches are in place whose specific requirements are rooted in workplace safety.
The committee endeavors to find common denominators for the most effective Group-wide processes and defines the strategy. So the companies forge their own individual paths as their specific circumstances require,” comments Franz Gleiss.
Securing a joint strategy
When it comes to their approach to workplace safety, what all four divisions have in common are the three non-negotiable standards the Group has introduced:
- Every voestalpine company must have a safety organization appropriate for the size of the company.
- Near misses must be reported and the causes rectified immediately.
- Managing directors must conduct safety audits of their responsible areas four times a year.
A series of Group-wide measures and initiatives are also in place to continually promote workplace safety. Over the next 18 months, individual red lines will be introduced in our companies to designate absolute no-gos in terms of workplace safety. They clearly show the hard and fast rules that are non-negotiable and the red lines which must not be crossed under any circumstances, for your own safety and the safety of others. The safety calendar, published in 16 languages, will also be available again in print and in digital format in the Group app to regularly remind employees about the topic of workplace safety. At the recently opened “Sicher gesund” (Safe and Sound) training center in Linz, participants are taught in a virtual environment using realistic, safety-related scenarios—effectively and at no risk to employees. This is the outcome of an idea which emerged during the Health & Safety Days 2018.
Two Days for Workplace Safety
At the Health & Safety Days 2023, 67 employees from German-speaking countries in Europe joined forces with 44 participants from 20 non-German-speaking nations to meet and share expertise across the divisions under the motto “Safety is non-negotiable.” Held in mid-October, at the event colleagues from Brazil, the US, India, South Africa, Turkey, Sweden, and many other countries swapped ideas and approaches with one another. During World Café events, experts exchanged opinions on current health and safety topics in the Group, and specialist lecturers provided fascinating insights into the human factor and cultural change in the area of workplace safety. The divisions’ best ideas and methods for reducing accidents were recognized with the Health & Safety Awards.
Workplace safety = communication + individual responsibility
Chief Health & Safety Officer Franz Gleiss was himself jointly responsible for safe working in warehouse management during his time as procurement director of the Steel Division. Following his work in procurement, he was responsible for sales in the construction and profile industry segment, and now sells safety within the Group. As he puts it himself: “How you communicate about the topic is incredibly important. Workplace safety can only be implemented if all employees understand the reasoning behind the rules. The secret lies in wanting to follow these rules even when no one is watching,” comments Franz Gleiss. He compares this with sticking to the speed limit when driving—not just because speed is being monitored, but of your own free will and for your own safety. The Chief Health & Safety Officer is already seeing a positive change in how workplace safety is perceived, and in the cultural mindset within the Group, among both the management and the workforce. It is a development he is keen to encourage, thanks to his enthusiasm for health and safety.
"I have the best job at voestalpine because every day I get to work toward ensuring all employees remain healthy and unharmed. That’s really amazing."
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