March 1, 2018

And then there is a fatality!

How many of you have experienced good safety records when suddenly a fatality occurs in a non process area? Well, you have? The management of Process Safety and Occupational Health and Safety in a chemical plant have a few common elements like incident investigation, work permits, training, emergency planning and response etc. However there is one most important underlying foundation for both- it is a good safety culture. Recently, a large chemical plant experienced two fatalities within a span of two months. Both the fatalities were not in a process area (covered process as defined in PSM) but were road accidents within the factory complex. One of them could have been prevented if the driver was wearing a seat belt. I had visited the plant a month before the fatal road accident (driver without seat belt) and had observed that in the township (where employees reside) of that plant, many of the staff were not wearing crash helmets when riding a two wheeler or were not buckling up when driving a car. This is the problem. You cannot throw away your rules just because you have come out of the factory and entered the township! Safety Culture should be developed assiduously by management both in and outside the plant. Breaking safety rules outside a plant will carry the same behavior inside the plant and other employees will start emulating this. After a fatality, there is always a lot of introspection, but don't forget the basics - Management staff must walk the talk both inside and outside the plant. Plain and simple.

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