Andrew Purvis

Director, Safety, Health and Environment, worldsteel

26 March 2020

Safety and health during these unprecedented times: Don’t take your eye off the ball.

worldsteel has taken the difficult decision to reschedule Steel Safety Day from its usual date of 28 April (aligned with the International Labour Organization’s World Day for Safety and Health at Work) to 21 October in order to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 at steel-producing sites.

It is important to say that this is not because safety or frequent interactions with employees and contractors about safety are less necessary now than before the pandemic.

These are extraordinary times; people are worried, distracted, and steel plants may be operating at reduced capacity or with reductions in staffing.

These conditions will introduce other safety hazards and risks that need to be addressed and controlled effectively in addition to health risks due to the virus itself.

It is therefore crucially important that leaders maintain an absolute focus on safety and communicate intensively with staff and contractors. The only change is that this communication should be carried out in a way that respects social distancing and any legal requirements that have been imposed.

If staff are remote working, it is also important to consider their mental wellbeing and to stay in touch. In many parts of the world, schools are closed and parents find themselves balancing their professional responsibilities with new roles as full-time educators and carers.

Others will be experiencing great concern for vulnerable relatives or friends.

It is in this context we have taken the decision to postpone Steel Safety Day this year.

Steel Safety Day was established to increase the number of interactions between steelworkers on safety related topics, and typically involves large scale audits, walk arounds, workshops and communal gatherings.

In 2019, Steel Safety Day audits took place at 820 sites around the world, with more than 463,000 employees and contractors directly taking part. At a time when an increasing number of governments are advising or mandating social distancing, worldsteel does not feel it is appropriate to continue with Steel Safety Day as planned for now.

Decisions as to whether to continue with or to postpone other planned safety events should be taken at a company or site level.

Companies should in the first instance comply with the advice from national governments and their health advisory bodies and healthcare professionals.

worldsteel has published a Guidance Note to support members and the wider audience at this time. Further material shared by worldsteel members detailing their additional safety measures at this time, can be found on the worldsteel extranet (password protected member-only site).

Now, more than ever, nothing is more important than the safety and health of the people who work in the steel industry. 

worldsteel wishes all of our members, their employees, contractors, families, friends and communities strength and good health at this difficult time.