International good practices in health and safety reporting

What to collect and why

This reflection occurs regularly when it comes to organizing data collection. It can happen because a new project is starting, because a management system is adopted or revised, but it is also a question that should be asked every time, during the review phase, when one wonders which innovation can be adopted to improve the performance of a management system, even consolidated. In the experience of large infrastructural works, especially abroad, it is normal for the client to analyse some OHS performance indicators at the time of selecting the contractor, and to insert the contractual obligation to produce a report with specific content, and therefore with well-selected indicators. Furthermore, within contractors, it is not uncommon that some indicators can be interesting for different services, each of which collects it, or asks the operators to collect it, according to their specifications, most of the time not coordinated with those of the others. This, of course, generates diseconomies and decreases the authority of the services towards the line, which interprets the lack of coordination as a sign of the neglect of those who request the data, evidently motivated by their lack of importance.

One of the side effects of globalization is that Anglo-Saxon fanaticism has permeated syntheses and acronyms. The term ” KPI” is increasingly heard in business meetings: they are checked and analysed and used as an excuse or witness for corporate decisions. Key Performance Indicators, which is the meaning of this acronym, are defined as indicators used to measure process performance. The two key elements to identify KPIs are:

  • that the indicator is measurable;
  • that the process is such that it is possible to intervene on it so that the defined indicator shows a variation.

There is a third requirement, usually implicit, but this is the basis for all the work of defining, collecting, and processing KPIs: the organization must have the ability and the will to intervene. Finally, there is a corollary to these three requirements: the operation of collecting indicators must be perceived as important by the company, and its impromptu organization – the need to qualify with a customer – or disorganized – the same information requested in a repeated and, perhaps, slightly different manner from different departments that do not speak to each other – certainly does not contribute to reinforcing this positive perception.

Yes, but it is said: there are no standards regarding these operations. In Italy we are firm on UNI 7249: 2007 Statistics of accidents at work, which declares to define the accident at work in its various meanings and indicate the significant parameters and indicators, which is not updated to current trends. Going abroad, while almost the whole world calculates the injury frequency index as the number of injuries per million hours worked, North America and other areas that refer to OSHA persist in calculating it as the number of injuries every 200,000 hours, and this is taken as a symbol of total Babel, also because neither the ISO 45001: 2018 standard for occupational health and safety management systems, nor the related standards, concretely address the issue of reporting.

This is not quite the case. There are international references, even very structured ones, which address and regulate this topic in an organic way, which would be good for our organizations to consider.

The Global Reporting Initiative

The Global Reporting Initiative is a non-profit organization born to help organizations, such as companies, governments, and NGOs, to communicate their impact on the economy, the environment, and society. Its goal is to create standards that are useful for reporting the sustainability performance of organizations of any type, size, and country. The GRI was recognized as an independent body in 2002 and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) shared its principles.

By now there are no longer a few organizations that, usually once a year, publish their sustainability reports. For some, it is simply a commercial initiative, something that cannot be done without, on pain of being degraded into the limbo of companies that are not trendy. After all, the first sustainability reports were invented to cure the serious image problems in which the chemical industries found themselves in the 1980s. It is good to think that most have developed these documents to demonstrate their commitment to sustainable development, to internal and external stakeholders. Sustainability reports should be the ostensible part of how the organization behaves regarding the concept of sustainability, made public to demonstrate transparency of processes and accountability, to improve its performance, increase its consideration of stakeholders, and attract customers and investors.

The desire to disseminate data relating to its activities, argues GRI, is an indication of a responsible organization, which aims to be honest and transparent with its stakeholders, because through reporting, organizations can better manage their impact on people and the planet, and become a responsible, trustworthy organization in a more sustainable world. The GRI standards are divided into two levels:

  • universal standards, relating to the foundations of their use, to general explanations, identifiable as series 100 (101, 102, 103) and the management approach, series 200 (from 201 to 206);
  • specific standards for certain topics, divided into the environment (from 301 to 308) and economy and society (from 401 to 419). The standard for worker health and safety reporting is 403.

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2022, a prediction between the pandemic and climate crisis | HSE People

One thing is easy to say: 2022 will not bring the end of the pandemic. Net of the possible variants, we will continue to perceive the consequences of COVID-19 for many years. In richer countries, infections and the level of consequences will decrease as the distribution of the vaccine progresses, but in the rest of the world, unfortunately, things will not go that way. Even if with the best intentions of international organizations and the most sensitive nations, it is unlikely that the process for the mass vaccination of all humanity, plus the need to repeat it after months, will eradicate the virus within the next year. Country closures, lockdowns and travel blocks will affect the world for some time yet. There will still be loss of life and turmoil in the economy, even greater than what we are experiencing these days. The consequences, however, will hit the poorest classes and countries the most throughout the world.

To offset the economic consequences of the pandemic, the governments of the richest countries and large international organizations are now setting up programs for the development of economies around the world, which will begin to manifest themselves in 2022. The counter-cyclical solution par excellence is the construction of new infrastructures, which are the basis for the development of commercial activities. We must therefore expect an increase in demand and circulation in the world of physical goods, from fuels to steel, but also of intangible ones, skills. Opportunities will open up both for established professionals, especially those who want to challenge themselves, and for young people who will enter the job market for the first time. The most competent and most motivated ones will be those who will have the most opportunities.

The climate disruptions that we are all starting to notice, extreme unseasonal temperatures, weather phenomena that have never been seen in some geographic areas and the fact that this kind of news has entered the news mainstream, are transforming these issues in ordinary conversation topics. The major international meetings, which until a few years ago were attended by environmental nerds and third world activists, have become popular events such as Champions League finals or rock concerts. Sustainability has become a concept accessible to everyone, who therefore pays those who can boast of it in terms of popularity and visibility.

Large international organizations, multinationals, governments, investment and development banks, are beginning to perceive the possibility of obtaining a return from these issues and are pushing for the concepts of corporate sustainability to expand from the top of large industry, downwards along the whole supply chain. This is also influencing the definition of professional profiles: considering the environment in its extended meaning of what surrounds us including air, water, land, natural resources, flora, fauna and humans and their relationships, has led to consider practical to integrate the management of health and safety at work and relations with interested parties into the skills of those involved in this discipline.

The new role of the ESHS manager, acronym for Environmental, Social, Health and Safety, is being born, which sees the protection of health and safety as a part of environmental protection. It will replace those who deal “only” with HSE. To become suppliers or subcontractors of the international giants, which manage these rivers of money, a smaller company will have to adopt safer and more ecological working methods, certify its processes and be subject to controls by independent bodies, appointed by the various levels of client to which they respond: employer or main contractor. This will undeniably stimulate the preparation and updating of professionals and the competitiveness of companies, transforming itself into a factor of economic and social growth.

Are we on the eve of a new era of milk and honey? Will a new regenerated, sustainable, and supportive humanity emerge from the pandemic and climate crisis? Or will man not be able to ignore his legacy, the eternal homo homini lupus, man is the wolf of man? Maybe, sadly, is it just too late?

Well, one thing is for sure, we will not die of boredom.

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You only live twice: qualification vs working knowledge | HSE People

Qualification and working knowledge are like two ingredients of a cocktail. Take the Martini cocktail, James Bond’s favorite, “shaken, not stirred”. Would you be able to separate the gin from the vermouth? No.

And so, qualification and working knowledge come together to produce a taste that is a different thing: it has a little of one and a little of the other. We live in the real world, not in Ian Fleming’s fiction, and so our ingredients sometimes stir, when we got to plan our training to enable us to face professional challenges. Much more often, however, they mix vigorously, shaken, which is when we are forced to quickly learn how to succeed in an unexpected challenge.

But what is it that makes a mixture of liqueurs an iconic cocktail, and an expert and competent technician an appreciated professional? This is achieved by keeping the main ingredients under control and adding secondary ones. Let’s not forget that a good Martini cocktail also requires lemon zest, pitted olives, strictly green, ice. And taking care of the presentation. Would you ever dare to drink a Martini cocktail in a beer mug? Abomination!

If you have an extraordinary professionalism, then you could be a Vesper Martini, the first cocktail that James Bond ordered in Ian Fleming’s 1953 book, Casino Royale. It is named after the seductive double agent, Vesper Lynd, played by two beautiful women: Ursula Andress in the 1967 movie and Eva Green in the 2006 remake. A Vesper Martini is made up of gin, vodka, and Kina Lillet, a French liqueur made with wines from the Bordeaux region and macerated liqueurs. Unfortunately, it is no longer produced.

What do I mean by this bold alcoholic-cinematic metaphor? What do Ursula Andress and Eva Green have more than many other beautiful women? The word is: personality. Experience and skills are useless, if you are not able to rework them, to produce something new and yours. And how is this achieved? Testing yourself every day. Trying to improve. Finding your weaknesses to work on.

Do you think Eva Green (and Ursula Andress, in her day), leave home in the morning as they woke up? Maybe now yes. But they can afford it because they have worked on themselves for years. They worked on how to introduce themselves, how to walk, how to look, how to smile, how to talk, how to drink a glass of champagne, how to shake hands… They learned to put on make-up, to dress, to pose, to model, to act. They tested themselves because they wanted to improve themselves.

There it is. A good professional must certainly have qualification and working knowledge. But they are both things that you can buy, more or less cheaply. A good professional has a personality. He tackles work with the aim of doing a good service to his client, the people around him, and improving himself. He chooses professional challenges to become a better person. He can develop skills and experiences by producing something new.

Because, after all, you only live twice, and twice is the only way to live!

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HSE and technology | HSE People

Technology is the discipline that concretizes ideas and studies, which aim at the processes for the realization of goods and the execution of the activities we need to live and thrive.

Through technology, man has sought the tools to do with less effort what he could already do, and to do things that were beyond his means: from stone weapons (homo habilis, about 1.75 million years ago) to space travel.

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My COVID journey | HSE People

For the generation prior to mine, a key question was: where were you when John Fitzgerald Kennedy was shot? Then they started asking what you were doing on 9/11. I remember when Italy was put in lockdown as if it were today.

A few days earlier I was driving on the highway, crossing the surroundings of Lodi, the town in northern Italy not far from Milan where the first cases of COVID-19 were discovered. Here the lockdown had been proclaimed for some time and seeing even the gas stations closed in the most trafficked Italian highway made a certain impression. That evening I was having dinner at home with my wife and another couple of friends. For a few weeks we had been talking about this epidemic, but at the 8:00 pm news the journalist announced that the government had proclaimed the lockdown of the whole country. I immediately had a shiver down my spine: I travel a lot for work, how could I have done?

Within a few days, my clients suspended all the trips we had planned to Poland, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Croatia, Azerbaijan, and suddenly I found myself stuck in the house with a lot of free time. I must say that IOSH has helped me so much to reorganize my professional life, and to keep my mental balance under control. I found out that it was organizing seminars from the Far East, where local professionals already have good experience in managing these conditions, since the days of the first SARS and avian flu, and I started studying these cases for the purpose to provide advice to my clients who needed to guarantee the service of their companies, protecting their workers. Thanks to these new skills, in a few times the work returned, in the form of consultations about COVID, seminars about COVID, articles about COVID. My publisher commissioned me the manual entitled Tools to manage the health and safety of workers in health emergencies, that I wrote in Italian in few days, which continues to have some success.

Then the drive to return to normal was stronger than the pandemic: the tools for videoconferencing made it possible to substitute much of the travel and personal meetings. We have done videoconferencing meetings, videoconferencing training courses, even videoconferencing audits. We trained the people already in the workplace to circulate with the camera and headphones to surrogate the auditor on site. Everything that was not essential was stopped, but so many colleagues also had to guarantee their daily presence, amid fears and difficulties. I have a friend who provided maintenance in the hospitals, and my admiration goes to him.

During spring and summer of 2020, for a few weeks things seemed to get back to normalcy, and I returned to travel and visit my customers. Despite COVID, I have made some international trips, and I will never forget once crowded airports, turned into wastelands, with no other humans in sight. I spent hours in transit in Munich, Frankfurt, or Istanbul, because the flights were less frequent and there was more to wait for connections, in the complete desert. But it was an unnatural condition, everyone careful to keep their distance and suspicious of people getting too close.

I remember the month of October, keeping under control the numbers of hospital admissions and in intensive care units, to anticipate the possible suspension of travel, and to be able to return to Turkey where, with my wife, of Turkish nationality, we decided to spend the second winter of COVID, after having spent the first one in Italy. This time, however, there was a perspective: vaccine studies made this goal closer every day. Since then, it has been a wait for this moment. I took the first dose on June 7th and the second on July 12th. The doctor who gave me the second injection asked me if she had any side effects with the first one. I replied that I felt moved. He told me: me too.

I believe that the discovery of a vaccine in a year and mass vaccination are as much a pride of humanity as the landing on the moon. Wonder what hypothetical extra-terrestrials might think if they are observing us: in 2020 the NGO ACLED, Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project , recorded 2,124 battles, 927 riots, 1,480 explosions and 1,647 violence against civilians. While a part of humanity was slaughtering each other, the better one prepared and developed a vaccine against a pandemic that killed millions of people and grounded the whole world economy!

Now the richer countries have a moral obligation to help the poorer ones. According to the site Our World in Data, a project promoted by the Oxford Martin Program on Global Development of the University of Oxford, on the day these notes are written over 40 million doses will be inoculated. At this time, 29.6% of the world’s population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, for a total of 4.36 billion. However, these were only intended for 1.1% of the population of low-income countries. The two extreme cases are Gibraltar, which has vaccinated over 116% of its population with two doses (!!!) and Haiti, which has reached just 0.08%, with a single dose, and has 0.00% of the population that completed the vaccination cycle.

Vaccination of the populations of low-income countries is not a Third World fanatics whim, but a necessity. Only by completing the prophylaxis for most of the world’s population, will it be possible to stop the pandemic, definitively stopping the development of the variants of the virus.

Our society, however, has shown the moral strength and competence of women and men who, in many situations, have been the real bulwark that prevented the worst. First, the healthcare staff. Then all those who have carried out less prominent but equally fundamental tasks, from police officers to food supermarket staff.

It is to these people that we owe our thanks.

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HSE in energy | HSE People

A country like Italy consumes an amount of energy every year equal to that produced by almost 200 million tons of oil equivalent. Of this energy, about 80% comes from fossil fuels, and therefore incredibly impoverishes the natural environment. This is because the materials that produce energy are irreparably subtracted from the environment, since the times of the natural processes for their reconstitution are entire geological eras and reintroduced into it in the form of waste products: ashes, fumes, heat, gases.

International building projects – HSE People

Eastern Europe, the Middle East and, in general, developing countries, are among the most common destinations. Underestimating issues relating to safety and the environment, perhaps believing that these areas have not yet developed a sensitivity to these issues comparable to that of other countries, can be an error of assessment that will be paid dearly. In fact, it happens that these initiatives are financed by big international development banks, such as IFC, World Bank, EBRD, ADB, which is generally referred to by the collective name of Lenders, or promoted by international companies extremely sensitive to these issues, which have developed very stringent rules of conduct relating to the environment, safety and relations with the local communities.

It can be safely said that one of their main objectives, is to obtain and maintain the consent of all interested parties, starting from the populations directly concerned, up to the audience of the administrators and politicians involved, passing through the local entrepreneurial fabric to finish to the local and international public opinion. Therefore, regardless of what legislation requires and how it is actually applied, a condition that varies according to particular local and national sensitivities, for the development banks the activation and continuous updating of an evaluation of the effects of the project, which starts from local environmental, ecological and social considerations, to extend to the more general consequences on the professional and economic communities, proportionate to the scale of the project, up to where the influence of the promoted activities can be extended.

You can read the whole article here: International building projects – HSE People

Safety, Environment and Construction Companies Abroad – HSE People

The market for the construction of large infrastructures, highways, dams, subways, is now completely globalized. The main contractors are multinationals, present in different geographical areas, and they employ personnel from every nation, at different levels. The same can be said for the service companies that gravitate in this market: designers, consultants and engineers belong to a large transnational community, so much so that it is not difficult, over the years, for these people to meet again for work in different parts of the world, in new projects and roles. Under the name. Working abroad, however, you can still find more different scenarios, situations that require a reasoned approach and quite different solutions, in terms of health and safety in the workplace.

All countries have specific sector regulations, which are more or less taken into consideration, depending on how strong the pressure of public opinion is towards the protection of workers and environment. They are often enforced even with draconian measures. The contractors that intend to approach these countries must have a very well-developed organization and technological skills and, in any case, in practice, they cannot help but adopt local practices, management and even local workers. It is no coincidence that the main players in the sector have acquired companies or established important branches in these areas.

Elsewhere, unfortunately the protection of the human life and the environment is not so strongly felt, both at the government level and in public opinion. In these countries, legislation and local social pressure cease to be of reference: a responsible company must find its guidance in internal practices, having as a deterrent the social pressure of public opinion in its own country. Some nations have developed extremely strict rules on the corporate responsibility, including about offenses committed abroad. As a rule, the following are punished:

  • Extortion and corruption, undue inducement to give or promise benefits.
  • Manslaughter and negligent injuries committed in violation of the rules on the protection of health and safety at work.
  • Environmental crimes.

However, the situation also changes in these countries when dealing with projects financed by clients based in the most sensitive nations, or by international economic development banks, often identified under the collective name of Lenders. In this case it will be easy to face, often unexpectedly, the request for a remarkably high level of performance. We are living in a historical period in which great infrastructural works are sometimes viewed with suspicion: very frequently new roads, ports, railways, and infrastructures in general, are openly opposed and actively rejected by an often-noisy part of the population. In some countries it may happen that interventions by non-national capital or contractors can be interpreted as neo-colonial meddling by foreign powers, intent on reducing constituted states into economic dependence. Finally, there is always the possibility that the new infrastructure will be built in inhabited areas or characterized by particularly delicate ecosystems, causing opposition from local populations or public opinion, including international ones.

The international development banks, which are instruments of the foreign policy of the governments of the member states, have long since developed very sophisticated operational standards, which are incorporated into contracts and become the new references of construction companies, to avoid even the emergence of these problems as much as possible. These contractual requirements are frequently stricter than local mandatory legislation. Furthermore, owner companies from virtuous nations use to refer to these standards, even working outside their own country.

Basically, the areas of interest are three: environment, health and safety at work and relations with local communities and institutions. It is good to clarify: lenders pursue political objectives of maximizing consensus and minimizing negative effects, and the funded project is not their ultimate goal, but only the tool for these objectives. Thinking that, like an ordinary owner, they are exclusively interested in the realization of the project, and that for this reason they can have a negotiable approach to everything else, can lead to a rude awakening.

You can read the whole article here: Safety, Environment and Construction Companies Abroad – HSE People

The fish rots from the head down – HSE People

Fish, according to popular wisdom, always rots from the head down. Consequently, regulations and standards insist on the involvement of top management in all business dynamics related to safety. Undoubtedly, top management defines the entire company policy, and therefore also that of safety. It establishes plans and programs for the future development of the organization, and it allocates resources. Making the long story short, top management makes the choices for the company’s strategy, in that never ending war which is the conquest of the market. Safety is just one of its various aspects; its relevance within the overall strategy of the organization can derive, for example, from the necessity to comply with the laws. However, this is the minimum degree; this kind of attitude will quickly present major limitations. For some divine curse, in fact, the law identifies the minimum expected behaviour to obtain a result, however, which is always the maximum: the complete protection of the psychophysical integrity of the worker. It is like a paradox of ancient Greek philosophy, whereby it is possible to reach the goal only when you decide to overcome it, which means that full compliance with the requirements of the standard can only be achieved by considering having to go beyond those.

When planning a goal of this kind, there is no need to be frightened by ethical considerations: there are markets in which the safety of workers and the protection of the environment are held in high regard, and companies that fail to take care of them cannot enter or have a short life. These are all those in which organizations are exposed to the action of large pressure groups, which may be such because they are made up of numerous subjects, such as consumer associations, or because they have great capacity for action, such as banks. For companies that decide to compete in these markets, complying with the law is only a starting point, because they know that their ability to do business will be greatly affected by the reputation they will be able to earn.

Once the management of an organization has defined the extent and objectives of its effort, whether it should limit itself to just obtaining compliance with legal standards, clearly for fear of the punishments that may be incurred, or whether it wants to go further, perhaps to access more profitable markets, it will have to adopt strategies to maximize the economical return. In this situation, we are led to focus on the technical and regulatory aspect, neglecting that the tendency of human groups to adapt to the messages and concrete behaviours of leaders, is an aspect that techno-geeks lead to underestimate. All this within any kind of organization, no matter how extensive, because the same dynamics present in any social sphere apply. A health, safety, and environment plan should therefore assign some resources to these issues, defining a communication strategy that has in the company management and in other leadership roles, such as elderly workers with respected experience, or young technicians of recognized competence, its own active testimonials.

The goal of an HSE communication strategy is undoubtedly to reinforce the importance of this aspect, in the eyes of all members of the community-organization, and it is pursued:

  • Adopting widespread behaviours of compliance with the rules.
  • Giving open support to those who respect them and to those who are committed to their control.
  • Recalling anyone who does not respect these rules, in a constant and irrelevant way of the role they occupy in the organization.

Informal behaviours of peers and superiors have a great influence on the perception of how health, safety and environmental protection are taken into consideration in the workplace: in small and less structured companies, the management is close to production activities, so it must be directly involved in these tasks. In the more structured ones, it will be appropriate to plan public initiatives, to make explicit the support of the management.

These can be, for example, periodic inspections conducted by top management in the production areas, together with the safety manager and the department managers, to be able to promptly intervene on the conditions encountered, naturally respecting the rules in force, such as the use of PPE, the smoking ban, respect for transit and safety areas… These inspections should be conducted with a frequency such as to avoid any kind of preventive staging, so to show the working conditions as they actually are every day and to ensure the workers on the sincerity of the objectives.

To obtain the maximum result, it is advisable to implement a communication campaign: a program, and resources, for at least one year, will avoid the counterproductive effects due to the silent renunciation of any initiative, because no plan was made. The elements of the campaign may concern, for example:

  • Incentive campaigns for the virtuous behaviour of workers, with bonuses paid directly to them or – better – money sums set aside by the company for social objectives, agreed with the workers themselves or their representatives.
  • Periodic campaigns on issues relating to safety and the environment, perhaps with objectives related to work, such as cleaning an area, the maintenance of a machine.
  • Bulletin board and poster communications.
  • Meetings and, why not, parties.

You can read the whole article here: The fish rots from the head down – HSE People