Occupational health and safety: Learning and building together
ABB is committed to achieving excellence in Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) and works to achieve this objective through both strategic, Group-led programs and businessspecific initiatives.
To support these initiatives, we continue to invest in the competence and development of our people through widespread training and the International Diploma program, and through the provision of additional, specific resources in areas of growth and known high risk activities.
Nonetheless, following an extended fatality free period, sadly we recorded four fatal incidents during 2012; three at the workplace and one during road travel. The fatalities involved two ABB employees and two contractors and occurred in Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Brazil and Congo-Brazzaville.
The number of serious injuries to ABB employees and contractors also increased from 38 in 2011 to 42 in 2012. Serious injuries occurred in all divisions and all regions, with the most common risks identified as falls from height, electrical contact and being struck by objects. All incidents are investigated to identify root causes and lessons learned are communicated throughout the company.
The loss of colleagues and contractors and the increase in serious injuries are of grave concern for us and provide additional impetus for our continued strong focus on OHS improvement programs.
During 2012, we continued to embed OHS in business practices, developing a framework to align goals, standards and processes across our global markets and operational divisions. Business-led OHS programs continued to focus on the particular needs and activities of the different business units (BU) and a new program was initiated in the Motors and Generators BU of the Discrete Automation and Motion Division.
This BU has grown significantly following the acquisition of Baldor Electric Company in 2011 and the OHS improvement program was initiated by the BU to build awareness, knowledge and consistent practices across its operations. The program focused on BU-specific risks, such as lifting, electrical testing, and mechanical handling. It consisted of intensive training in theory and practice and sessions were held in factories in Finland, India, Italy and China, each resulting in improvement action plans.
To support ABB’s strategy to grow our service business, we appointed a Group Service OHS Advisor in 2012. The Advisor is responsible for developing the OHS strategy for ABB Service in line with its growth ambitions and the risk profile of the business, and to coordinate activities throughout regional, country and BU service organizations.
In the service business, collaboration with our customers and other partners is critically important for mutual success. Such a collaboration with ABB Full Service customer Vale at its Voisey’s Bay nickel mine in northern Canada has achieved a major safety milestone – three years with no lost-time incidents. Vale Concentrator Department, ABB and Iskueteu, a local operations support company, worked together to implement best practices for workforce safety, production efficiency and maintenance excellence. Together, we have instilled a strong safety culture into the workforce.
In recognition of the value our service customers place on strong OHS performance, ABB also launched an internal Global Service Award for Safety. The award is intended to recognize service activities resulting in more effective injury or illness prevention and to promote leadership in this area. The 2012 award acknowledged the creation of a guide that provides safety instructions for different machines found in the workplace, with easily-understood material for both new and experienced employees.
In 2012, ABB also expanded the scope of our Group-led programs, rolling out our Group occupational health strategy with a series of awareness training sessions around the world. More than 120 people in seven regions were trained to address occupational health risks, such as exposure to hazardous substances, physical agents, noise and vibration.
The sessions involved a combination of theory and practice to assist effective management and monitoring of risks at country and site level. Participants prepared their own occupational hygiene management programs and during 2013 we will conduct reviews to assess implementation of these programs.
The strategy is led by a global Occupational Health Team consisting of occupational health physicians and OHS professionals who also provide support and guidance for local programs. In 2012, we appointed a Group Occupational Health Physician to spearhead this program.
At country level, OHS improvement programs are organized according to formal country OHS strategic plans that are tailored according to local conditions and business needs. Progress towards performance targets and implementation of training and development programs is monitored quarterly at Group level.
Increasingly, local ABB OHS programs are being recognized by external stakeholders. For example, in the US in 2012, ABB Inc. was named one of America’s safest companies by EHS Today, a leading publication and resource for safety, health and industrial hygiene professionals. Newly-integrated Baldor plants also received the Award of Excellence in Safety from the state of Georgia, the North Carolina Department of Labor Safety Award, the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce Commendation for Excellence for Safety and the Arkansas Department of Labor Safety Award.
For 2013, we will continue to develop our model for OHS excellence, building awareness and understanding at every level of the company. We will build our OHS behavior standard as an integral part of the Group processes that define the values of the company and work to ensure business-specific needs are recognized and met.