Safety and health
Nothing is more important than the safety and health of the people who work in the steel industry.
According to a survey of 39 worldsteel member companies, there were approximately 1.1 million people working in those companies as employees and contractors in 2008. There were 99 fatalities and 9,349 lost-time injuries at steel-producing sites covered by the survey.
Although over the last few decades the use of process automation and other technological advancements reduced the number of people working in the steel industry, in recent years a sustained increase in steel demand has reversed this trend.
Protecting the safety and health of these people is of vital importance. The main reason to protect people is because it is right. Member companies believe that nothing is more important than the safety and health of the people who work in the industry.
Safety and health are the industry’s top priority, every company is at a different stage in implementing systems to avoid injuries to the people who work in steel plants.
The Accident-free steel initiative
In 2008, worldsteel relaunched Accident-free steel, a project to help member companies to achieve an accident-free working environment. The Accident-free steel report was widely circulated among managers in the steel industry. A series of regional seminars was held, to enable managers to exchange ideas on improving safety and health. Also, member companies agreed to share statistics on incidents. In this way, they record their progress on reducing accident rates.
Accident-free steel is a challenge to the steel industry to improve its safety performance to a level where there are no workplace incidents that result in an injury or illness to employees or contractors. Several steel producers have pursued this challenge and are now demonstrating that it is achievable. Other companies are still in the early stages of developing an approach to accident-free steel production.
International standards for safety and health in the workplace
Many countries have legislation on occupational safety and health. The United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) runs a programme on safety and health at work and the environment, called ‘Safework’.
In 2005, the ILO’s International Labour Office published the second edition of ‘Safety and health in the iron and steel industry’. The book was developed with assistance from worldsteel, steel-producing companies, workers unions and government representatives. It outlines risk assessments from many areas of the steelmaking process and gives companies a valuable tool for assessing the safety and health standard of their plants.
Some steel companies also use the British Standards Institution’s occupational health and safety management system standard (BS OHSAS 18001) to benchmark their performance. Compliance with this standard demonstrates a company’s commitment to continually check and improve its safety and health performance.
Best practice and improving performance
Perhaps the most important work in safety and health is the collaborative effort of member companies to share best practices. Through statistics contributed by members, worldsteel tracks safety and health results of fatalities and lost-time injuries. This valuable information is then shared throughout the membership, to help companies to identify ways to change the culture and behaviour of everyone working within them.
Many organisations have reduced fatalities to near zero and lost time injury frequency rates to less than 1.0 per million man hours.
Guiding principles for the steel industry
Nothing is more important than the safety and health of the people that work in the steel industry. This commitment, endorsed by the Board in 2006, is accompanied by a set of six principles:
- All injuries and work-related illnesses can and must be prevented.
- Management is responsible and accountable for safety and health performance.
- Employee engagement and training is essential.
- Working safely is a condition of employment.
- Excellence in safety and health supports excellent business results.
- Safety and health must be integrated into all business management processes.
In 2008, worldsteel published the 'Safety and health principles guidance book' to help its members to adopt and apply these principles.
Measuring performance is only one aspect of achieving good safety and health standards. worldsteel encourages all of its member companies to participate in the data collection and exchange of information.
Increased support for worldsteel’s safety and health activities will achieve greater progress towards the ‘zero’ goal: an injury-free, illness-free and healthy workplace.