Carlos Martínez

Manager, Safety and Health



2 December 2021

2021 is ending with plenty of challenges for the steel industry. While the covid-19 pandemic is still taking its toll, we also need to continue keeping our people safe and healthy.


We at worldsteel recognise that our leadership role needs to be equally strong, visible, and caring when it comes to safety and health; that is why we are actively working to enhance and evolve current culture and leadership practices in our industry.

Traditional assumptions about safety and health have worked and contributed substantially to overall injury reduction in our industry.

The traditional assumptions can be summarised as follows:

  1. Worker behaviour is the main cause of problems, if we fix and improve the workers we fix safety, and therefore
  2. We must tell workers what to do and, perhaps more importantly, not to do(a prescriptive and compliance approach) and by doing so achieve
  3. Safety, which is the absence of accidents.

Although safety results are improving, serious injuries and fatal events do still occur. This is the main challenge for our industry, and our focus is to work to deliver practical tools to eliminate these events.

Our members are increasingly concluding that an evolution in approach is needed and, more effective assumptions need to be made.

At worldsteel we are focusing on the following more effective and progressive approach:

  1. Workers are not the problem; they are an active component in industrial activities and operations, and they interact in a very complex and dynamic setting, in fact, workers will support the journey to solve safety challenges
  2. The most effective safety leaders don’t tell their organisations what to do, but rather assist them to adapt and create safety based on operating contexts and local conditions, and finally,
  3. Safety is not the absence of accidents; it is the presence of capacity. Organisations with capacity expect and plan for work not to be executed as planned, and ensure that even if (and when) errors are made or conditions change deviations do not lead to serious safety incidents.

These assumptions by themselves do not tell the whole story, and this is why worldsteel and our members are working to enhance understanding, and are guiding our industry’s journey and evolution from compliance and rule-based safety to a more resilient and holistic safety approach where leadership and culture take centre stage.

The critical role of safety leaders in creating and sustaining a safety culture

During worldsteel’s most recent Safety and Health Committee meeting, a number of these issues were brought to the table and discussed most notably during the course of a leadership training session delivered by our Committee Chairman Mike Dwyer (ArcelorMittal).

Several messages from this session resonated strongly among participants. Among the key take-home messages were:

  • Leading safety and health with consistency and care is very important, small, and progressive change will make a positive impact in the long term
  • Celebrate success every time you have the opportunity, but avoid time-based celebration (for example days without accidents)
  • Spend more time on the shop floor observing how the job is actually being done and making sure you can anticipate risk scenarios.
  • Focus on high-value safety tasks that strive for the identification of high consequence activities and the ways to implement ‘fail safe’ controls.
  • Ensuring open communication and a safe environment for speaking up is essential
  • Goal conflict identification and minimisation is key for leaders to act when there is a risk or opportunity.

To support steelmakers in building and maintaining an effective and robust safety culture, worldsteel is working to provide more detailed guidance, which we expect to release in Q1 of 2022.