Chief Health & Safety Officer, Franz Gleiss, and the Health and Safety Committee succeeded within three years to lower the frequency of accidents in the voestalpine Group by 30% with the help of a comprehensive program.
Better safe than sorry. And it is certain that much can be achieved en route both if you have a firm goal and the requisite determination—just like voestalpine, which has done a lot in recent years to make work in its facilities around the world even safer. With impressive results, as Franz Gleiss, the Group’s Chief Health & Safety Officer, is happy to emphasize: the accident frequency rate at voestalpine has dropped by 30% since the business year 2015/2016.
The index that Franz Gleiss and the Health & Safety Committee (Michael Tischler, Michael Ebner, Isabel Lamplmayr, Markus Müller, and Klaus Haidinger) have in mind in this connection is the so-called “Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate.” It shows how many accidents occur per one million hours of work. While there were 16.1 accidents per million working hours three years ago, statistically speaking, the rate has declined to 11.3 accidents. And there is a surprise as far as the geographic distribution of accidents is concerned. The accident frequency rate in supposedly over-regulated and overly security-minded Europe is slightly higher than in Asia and the two Americas.
Need for leadership
Was this success possible because the issue of safety was brought up over and over again? “No,” says voestalpine’s Safety Director, Franz Gleiss,
"but it is integral to the issue. Safety arises from a combination of safety leadership, everybody’s commitment to a safe working environment, and a safety culture that works—even when no executive or safety expert is watching."
The executives model leadership in all matters related to safety, for example, when they along with a safety expert regularly conduct a so-called “Safety Walkthrough” in the given facility to assess the extent to which actual workplace practices comply with safety regulations: Is the work accomplished without any instances of negligence? Do employees wear their personal protective gear? Does working at heights involve straps and cable safety devices? Members of the Management Board must carry out these inspections once a year, managing directors once every quarter.
Comparisons create safety
Everything started back in October 2015 when a Group-wide safety project was launched across all divisions and companies. Since then, all units have been submitting standardized safety indicators on a monthly basis, thus competing for the best values. The Group’s safety webtools can also be used to determine how one’s own unit is doing with respect to safety compared with all others. Furthermore, an interactive self-review regarding safety issues can be used to carry out a status check and obtain an action plan based thereon. No meeting of the safety committee in individual Group companies takes place absent such safety status updates, because “Health & Safety” is a binding and fixed agenda item. “This helped to initiate a lot of activities on the shop floor,” Franz Gleiss explains.
Barbecue for the employees
The annual cross-company meeting of the safety experts within the Group ensures that everybody hears about effective new safety measures in individual facilities. It is precisely such exchanges about accident reduction methods and processes that have given rise to the currently applicable safety standards and regulations within voestalpine. This also includes the obligation to report near misses and to prevent them from re-occurring by taking appropriate action. An annual safety award is given for the best safety measure in every division.
And as far as celebrating safety is concerned, Nortrak, a US-company, even takes it a step further: an accident-free year in a plant is celebrated with a barbecue for all employees!