Culture of safety in the workplace

Published March 11, 2019, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

J. Albert Gamboa
J. Albert Gamboa

In my experience dealing with various industries, the most safety-conscious are those involved in energy and power utilities.

This observation is validated by a study conducted by Australian organizational psychology firm SACS Consulting titled “Dangerous Personalities Making Work Unsafe.”

According to SACS Managing Director Andrew Marty, workers in the energy and utilities sector are the most motivated to ensure safety at work, the most likely to comply with occupational health rules, and the most likely to participate in improving safety in the workplace.

Here in the Philippines, “Safety First” as a policy is exemplified by South Pacific, Inc. (SPI) – a relatively new player in the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) industry. SPI is a partnership forged in 2015 between the Cagayan Valley-based Ty family and shareholders of Calaca Industrial Seaport Corp. (CISC).

Several months after SPI began commercial operations in October 2015, a fire hit its main terminal inside the CISC facility in Calaca, Batangas that caused a four-month work stoppage. The incident prompted its management to intensify the promotion of a safety culture among its employees, suppliers, and other stakeholders.

After the fire, SPI engaged German firm TUV SUD, a world leader in product testing and certification, to be the lead group during the rehabilitation phase and thereafter certify the terminal’s post-rehab safety on a regular basis.

Since then, the company has enhanced its “Safety First” policy to levels beyond mere compliance to local and international standards. In a media interview, SPI President Inigo “Jun” Golingay disclosed that the company puts value in protecting its personnel, property, and the environment.

“We strive to create a culture where we take personal responsibility for the enhanced health, safety, and wellness of our stakeholders. We recognize the positive impact and benefits these would bring to our staff and the organization as a whole. Being proactive in safety ultimately makes our company operate more efficiently,” he said.

Mr. Golingay further revealed, “We have a back-up plan to our back-up safety measures. We strive to be competitive and spend more than industry standards vis-à-vis safety procedures.”

Learning from the lessons of the 2016 fire, SPI invested on its own fleet of fire trucks manned by experienced and well-trained fire fighters. It also formed an alliance with the Philippine Bureau of Fire Protection and established mutual aid agreements with other locators in the vicinity of its terminals.

Among the safety standards that SPI adheres to strongly are those enforced by the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and its Philippine counterpart, the Occupational Safety and Health Center; the UK-headquartered International Association of Oil and Gas Producers; the Massachusetts-based National Fire Protection Association; the International Safety Guide for Oil Tankers and Terminals published by the International Chamber of Shipping; and the Engineering Equipment and Materials Users Association domiciled in London.

The Batangas main terminal and a second one in Mandaue City, Cebu which is about to start operations, are equipped with the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system that uses computers, networked data communications, and graphical user interfaces for high-level process management.

Through the SCADA system, SPI officials can monitor and operate all processes in the terminal from a control room at a safe distance away from the tanks, valves, and pipelines. The system has the capability to warn supervisors about any impending trouble at any given time so that they could proactively react and always keep the terminal within safe operating conditions.

To further enhance safety, a network of gas detectors, safety valves, flame detectors, and emergency shutdown devices have been installed in both the Calaca and the Mandaue terminals that can detect abnormal conditions and automatically shut down areas at risk of potential danger.

SPI’s goal of working for a triple bottom line in terms of business, community, and country has been realized due to its focus on people, property, and the environment alongside its compliance with national and global standards.