Andrew Purvis

Director, Safety, Health and Environment, worldsteel

23 October 2018

2017 was the safest year on record within the steel industry. It was also the first year that our industry’s headline Lost Time Injury Frequency rate (LTIFR) fell below 1.0, a reduction of harm of over 80% in the last decade.

While we celebrate this success and the contribution of all our members, this should be seen as a milestone on the way to a truly zero harm industry, rather than a destination in its own right.

We may have crossed a symbolic line, but the drive to eliminate all workplace injuries must continue.

While we celebrate crossing this symbolic line, it is also true that in many ways LTIFR is an inelegant metric, in that it is simple, very broad, and backwards looking.

So, what are the opportunities for organisations who really want to better understand and improve their safety performance? 

I would like to suggest two things.

1. Focus on Potential Serious Injuries and Fatalities (PSIFs)

Not all lost time injuries and near misses have the potential to be cause very serious injuries. A subset will.  For example, a near miss as a result of a slip or trip on its own would not be a PSIF, but a slip caused by a worker rushing to get out of the way of a forklift truck could be. After each incident routinely ask the questions – “Could this incident have led to a serious injury? Was this a PSIF?”.

If the answer is yes, then investigate, report and have corrective actions put in place in exactly the same way as would have happened if the incident had resulted in a serious injury. Taking this approach will help focus attention and efforts on the most serious risks and reduce the chance of such incidents reoccurring.

2. Focus on Process Safety Management (PSM)

Process safety is a blend of engineering and management skills focused on preventing catastrophic accidents and near misses, particularly structural collapse, explosions, fires and toxic releases associated with loss of containment of energy or dangerous substances.

Examples of PSM incidents that have had profound safety, environmental, reputational and legal impacts on the organisation in which they occurred include the Deepwater Horizon incident at BP in 2010 and the Buncefield explosion and fire in the UK in 2005.

The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) successfully prosecuted the operators of the Buncefield facility.  At the end of the trial, the Director of Hazardous Installations Directorate (HID) for HSE, issued a challenge to high hazard industries to answer the following three questions from the boardroom:

  • ‘Do we understand what can go wrong?’
  • ‘Do we know what barriers and systems are in place to prevent this happening?’
  • ‘Are we sure that the barriers and systems we have are healthy and working effectively?’

It is important that the management and board of all steelmakers ask themselves these three key questions, and if they find they cannot confidently answer ‘Yes’ to all of them, take action to ensure that they can.

The journey to a zero harm global steel industry is a marathon rather than a sprint, but together we will continue to make progress and worldsteel stands ready to assist all of our members in their endeavours.

Do you investigate Potential Serious Injuries and Fatalities? Are you addressing process safety within your own organisations? Please share your experiences with us and the global steel community.

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