Safety Awareness and Safety Training in Steel Industry

Safety Awareness and Safety Training in Steel Industry

A safe working environment for all the employees and an accident free working place is the top most priority for the management of an iron and steel plant. Historically, iron and steel making consisted of dangerous processes and accidents were always considered inevitable. Today, many steel organizations in the world recognize that this is no longer an appropriate statement for a modern and technically advanced steel industry.

There is no area, process or type of work in an iron and steel plant that cannot be accident free. Safety requires a permanent 100 % commitment from everyone. Most importantly, it requires a strong commitment from top management of steel organization, which should set the culture in which safety is the number one priority and in which safety is not compromised with any other objective.

Many steel organizations are improving their safety performance and some plants have gone without any lost time injuries or fatalities for many years. These organizations know that such performance needs excellence in all aspects of their operations. This excellence also produces superior operational performance. The most successful steel organization is also the safest.

Safety in workplace is of prime importance in the iron and steel plant. Safety depends very much on the employee’s  reaction to potential hazards. The responsibility for the management is to provide the safest possible physical conditions, but for safety, it is always necessary to obtain everyone’s cooperation in the safety programs. Accident prevention committees, departmental safety representatives, safety incentives, competitions, suggestion schemes, slogans and warning notices etc, can all play an important role in spreading the safety awareness amongst the employees. Involving all persons in site hazard assessments, behaviour observation and feedback exercises can promote positive safety attitudes and  the focus of the employees towards prevention of injuries.

All the employees must be involved in a meaningful way, on a daily basis, to support injury prevention. Through constant exposure to safe practices, employees develop behaviour that ensures safety in every task. Engaged and empowered employees choose to work safely themselves and ensure others do as well. They also feel comfortable to contribute their ideas for safety improvement. Involvement and recognition of the employee promote good safety results.

Management contributes to safety by ensuring the safe working conditions for the employees during work. Employees contribute to safety by taking care of his own safety as well as safety of others at the workplace.

Management provides employees not only a safe working environment but also necessary safety information, instructions, training and supervision, and safe access to and egress from a workplace. Management responsibilities towards safety include (i) compliance with safety regulations, (ii) maintenance of safe working techniques, the care taken of machines and equipment, particularly any devices provided in the interest of safety, (iv) safety training that include the use of and the care taken for the personal protective equipment (PPE), and (v) the competence of managers, supervisors and workers etc.

Employees responsibilities towards safety include (i) working in accordance with their training, and the instructions and means given by the management, (ii) complying with the prescribed safety norms and procedures, (iii) taking all steps to eliminate or control hazards or risks to themselves and to others arising during the production, including the proper care and use of personal protective equipment, facilities and equipment placed at their disposal for this purpose, (iv) report forthwith to their immediate supervisor or safety representative any unusual conditions at the workplace or affecting installations and equipment which, they believe, presents a hazard or risk to their safety or health or that of other people arising from the production, and which they cannot deal with effectively themselves, (v) cooperate with the management and other employees to permit compliance with the duties and responsibilities placed on the management and employees.

In an iron and steel plant, large amounts of materials are processed, transported and conveyed by massive equipment that dwarfs that of most industries. Hazards are ever present in the steel plant environment. Operations in an iron and steel plant may expose employees to a wide range of hazards or workplace activities or conditions that can cause incidents, injury, death, ill health or diseases. A heightened awareness and emphasis on safety is an important priority. Hence a safety conscious iron and steel organization typically has sophisticated safety  programs to address the hazards. An integrated approach combining good engineering and maintenance practices, safe job procedures, employee training and use of personal protective equipment is usually required to control hazards.

The choice and the implementation of specific measures for preventing workplace injury and ill health in the employees depend on the recognition of the principal hazards, and the anticipated injuries and diseases, ill health and incidents. The most common causes of injury and illness in the workplace include (i) slips, trips and falls on the same level, (ii) falls from height, (iii) unguarded machinery, (iv) falling objects, (v) engulfment, (vi) working in confined spaces, (vii) moving machinery, on site transport, forklifts and cranes, (viii) exposure to controlled and uncontrolled energy sources, (ix) exposure to asbestos, (x) exposure to mineral wools and fibres, (xi) inhalable agents (gases, vapours, dusts and fumes), (xii) skin contact with chemicals (irritants such as acids and alkalis, solvents and sensitizers), (xiii) contact with hot metal, (xiv) fire and explosion, (xv) extreme temperatures, (xvi) radiation (non-ionizing, ionizing), (xvii) noise and vibration, (xviii) electrical burns and electric shock, (xix) manual handling and repetitive work, (xx) exposure to pathogens, (xxi) failures due to failed automation, (xxii) ergonomics, (xxiii) lack of safety training, (xxiv) poor work organization, (xxv) inadequate accident prevention and inspection, (xxvi) inadequate emergency first aid and rescue facilities. (xxvii) lack of medical facilities and social protection etc.

Good housekeeping is a cornerstone of safety in iron and steel plant. Floors and passageways can quickly become obstructed with material and implements that pose a tripping hazard. Large quantities of greases, oils and lubricants are used and if spilled can easily become a slipping hazard on walking or working surfaces.

Worldwide the five most common causes of safety incidents in steel industry have been identified as (i) moving machinery, (ii) falling from heights, (iii) falling objects, (iv) asphyxiation or gassing, and (v) moving cranes. Steel industry has also identified the preventive measures for these incidents. These incidents are shown in Fig 1.

causes of safety incidents in steel industry

Fig 1 Five most common causes of safety incidents in steel industry

Safety awareness

Safety awareness is an important aspects of safety for taking care of hazards. It can be enhanced through the observance of safety day and safety week. Further, safety meetings are to be held regularly for all employees to reinforce safety awareness.

Steel safety day is being celebrated on 28th April every year. It was established in 2014 so that the intention for setting up of a continuous improvement process and reiteration of the commitment towards safety of the employees, can be demonstrated.  It was set up for focusing on the most common five causes of safety incidents  so as to reinforce awareness of these five causes of safety incidents and for the creation a safer working environment across the entire steel industry worldwide.

Observance of safety week is normally a six day activity. Safety week is usually observed by holding (i) safety talks, (ii) safety inspections, (iii) safety related competitions (e.g. slogans, essays, and posters etc.), (iv) mock drills, and (v) safety skits etc. Also safety week is the occasion when performance is reviewed and new safety related campaigns are launched.  All these activities improves safety awareness amongst the employees.

Safety awareness is also promoted by steel organizations by  painting catchy safety slogans/warnings at prominent places so that eyes of the employees falls on these slogans/warnings while coming for work. These slogans/warnings reminds the employees of safety before the start of work. Another method adopted for safety awareness is to discuss safety at shift take over meetings so that the employees are reminded about the safety before the start of the work.

Safety training

Employees must know how to keep themselves and those around them safe. Managers and supervisors must talk to the employees about accident prevention every day to ensure that they are aware of the inherent dangers associated with their jobs. Employees need to be provided with adequate training to protect themselves and their colleagues.

Training is an essential part of an effective safety system. All employees must have the necessary training, skills and tools to do their job safely. Employees need to show a willingness to be trained and must apply their acquired knowledge and skills at the workplace. With the right training, each person can also perform  an independent job risk assessment.

Safety training is a very important activity for the steel industry. It is a key issue and one of the ways in which competence and personal motivation towards safety can be taken forward. It has a unique role to play, which helps the organizational culture to change into a safety oriented culture. In the changed culture,  besides pure safety training, safety related issues also get included in the all the training areas. This provides an opportunity to the employees to understand the central role of safety in the organizational culture.

Training must include information about hazards, safe methods of work, avoidance of risks and the use of personal protective equipment. When new methods or processes are introduced, it may become necessary to retrain even those employees with long experience on older type of process/equipment. Training and refresher courses for all levels of employees are particularly valuable. This helps the employees to familiarize with safe working methods, unsafe acts to be proscribed, safety rules and the chief regulatory provisions associated with the accident prevention. Training need  to be conducted by specialists/experts and must make effective use of audio visual aids.

Safety training interventions have been shown to lead to posi­tive effects on safety knowledge, adoption of safe work behaviours and practices, and safety outcomes. Training gives employees the knowledge of how to work in a safe and healthy way. To keep up standards, training programmes need to be checked and reviewed on a periodical basis.

A very useful tool for determining the need of the safety training seems to be a ‘training matrix’ or a ‘competence profile’, which shows a list of jobs related to skills required for that position. The training program is planned to match the matrix or the profile. Key questions, which are to be answered by the training program are (i) what is required, (ii) why is it done, (iii) who is responsible, (iv) how often, and (v) how is it to be done.

The demand for safety training is generally determined principally by the following events.

  • New employees joining the department or the organization.
  • Employees moving to new workplaces.
  • Old technologies and systems getting replaced with newer ones.
  • Regulatory requirements.
  • Refresher training.
  • Evaluation of audits and of the causes of accidents (unsafe acts).
  • Assessment of risk for individual jobs.

The responsibility of determining and reviewing the training lies in the hands of the line management along with the safety department. The most common period for a review is yearly. The responsibilities in ensuring that the necessary training is given, lies with the management supported by safety department and the human resource department.

Modules of training

The area of safety training is frequently structured in a modular system where the different modules are as follows.

  • Basic principles – These principles are to contain the basic principles of safety and may consist of important areas related to safety such as gas safety, works traffic code, working at heights, handling of materials, electric safety, use of PPE, confined spaces, heat stress, fire and rescue, first aid and hazardous materials as appropriate etc. All the employees must receive this basic training. Refresher training on basic principles is also required to be given as necessary.
  • Department or local site training – In this module of training, attention is paid to the dangers and hazards in a specific area (e.g. dangers of liquid steel at steel melting shop). This training is to include job safe practices and procedures, department safety requirements, hazardous substances at workplace, etc.
  • Specific job safety training – It is more specific than the department safety training since it focuses on the workplace area. In this matter, it is important to train in (i) identifying areas of high risk potential, (ii) detailed working procedures for specific devices, and (iii) specialized training on operations. Special courses such as safety training for welding, crane operation, forklift operation, and first aid for electricians and lasers and radiation operation are also examples of specific job safety training.
  • Management training – Managers and engineers must also receive training that allows them to fulfill their responsibilities for safety. Apart from special technical training, they are to be given training in areas such as risk analysis, safety audits, safety management and regulatory requirements related to safety

Normally organizations use predominantly in-house safety specialists for training. In case where in house capabilities are not sufficient then  the organization utilizes the services of external experts from time to time depending on the required competence, regulatory requirement, size of training requirement and availability of training resource. There may also be a role for some external training in some organizations on specific topics e.g. the use of breathing apparatus, safety requirements of a new equipment or technology, working in confined spaces etc. Several safety training courses has a requirement of certification ( e.g. first aid , welder etc.). Such safety training has to be given by the agencies which have got accreditation for providing such certificate.

Training for different occupational groups

For each occupational group, there is a different kind of training need and hence different kind of training is required. A basic principle for a steel organization is that every employee has to undergo training on ‘general safety Issues’ or ‘critical safety training’. The duration of this training is normally ranges from one to three days. For new employees of electrical discipline, mechanical discipline, and process operators, specific training is usually performed at the workplace by the department along with safety department. It is also quite common to pair up new employees with experienced employees who have high safety competence, at their workplace, for several days. In addition to this there are specialized safety programs  that are specific to certain process or a certain equipment. Employees engaged in these processes or equipment are required to undergo these safety training programs.

Engineers and managers are to focus more on strategic and managerial type of safety courses in place of job related training programs. Example of these programs are (i) Health and safety management system (OHSAS), (ii) training in the ‘Role of a manager in health and safety aspects’, (iii) safety audit course, (iv) risk analysis and assessment, (v) regulatory requirements for safety, and (vi) safety courses which are highly technical in nature.

As contractors are becoming increasingly involved in the steel industry, the requirement of safety training for them is also increasing significantly. Some organizations clubs contractors representatives along with their own employees while conducting the safety training programs.

One method for training the employees in safety, which is often used by the many organization, consists of basically two steps. The first step consist of studying of an accident which has recently happened in a steel plant and in second step is to give the employees a talk or a presentation explaining (i) the accident, (ii) causes of the accident, and (iii) measures to prevent similar accident. Such case study type of safety training is very effective way of training the employees about safety.

Tools for Training

For successful training, broad variety of tools are used. Apart from classic methods such as seminars and classroom, additional tools are being utilized increasingly. These include (i) safety videos, (ii) compact disc training modules for use in all the areas, (iii) computer interactive training with feedback system, and (iv) practical participation (use of breathing apparatus, fire fighting, first aid techniques).

Methods of safety training can vary widely, however, ranging from passive (lectures, videos and pamphlets) to moderately engaging (pro­grammed instruction, feedback interventions) to very engaging (training in behavioral modeling, hands-on training). More of engag­ing training is generally found to provide the most positive impacts, but all forms of safety training can be beneficial. Video training is widely used due to its scalability, ease of implementation and cost. 3D visualization for safety train­ing has been used and evaluated in some places to enhance the learning experience.9 The use of 3D visualization imple­mented into scaffold safety training within some industries has been shown to improve understanding through pre-test/post-test assessment. The virtual environments simu­late a number of hazardous conditions and replicate the results of neglected safety procedures and unsafe behaviours, resulting in virtual characters getting injured or killed. While these methods have been shown to be useful, there is little emphasis on using them in the steel manufacturing industry. In particular, the use of 3D visualization within video training has not been widely studied and should be investigated to determine the scope of its impact on safety training.

Training materials are normally provided to the employees being trained in the form of hand outs or a pocket book so that the employee can refer to safety procedures during his work in case of need. This has a positive effect of the employee’s commitment towards safety besides increasing his level of confidence towards safety procedures.

Competence assessment

The kinds of competence assessment regarding safety vary quite a lot between various organizations. However the competence assessment of the employees is considered  important by all. The methods of competence assessment which are generally in use include (i) feedback systems after training, (ii) questionnaires on matters included in training, (iii) open or closed book assessment with the use of true/false sheets, (iv) interviews by managers or supervisors, and (v) simulated rescues to prove competence etc. In addition, the training program itself is to be assessed from time to time.

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