Home > OUR NEWS & MEDIA> President's Speeches & Interviews> President's Address to the AFA Magazine on Safety, Health & Environment - 31st July 2011

Commitment to Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) in the Fertiliser Industry, should always be a constant and visible demonstration of proactive measures that involve a Top-Down Leadership of the whole management structure, which glides down as a line responsibility with active participation at every level of execution. Fuelled by modern communication systems, not only can incidents that occur within a fertiliser complex be immediately identified; but also incidents that occur globally can be tracked live, minute by minute.

With recent environmental catastrophes such as the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico making worldwide headlines, companies and the oil and gas industry as a whole have been under scrutiny for their SHE policies. The Middle East has recently started to crack down harder on environmental legislations with more public awareness towards safety, health and environmental security, to make it more stringent and streamlined.

Engineering and Technology are very important, but it is good safety practices that organisations must ensure so that hazards and risks are identified and routinely assessed. Active involvement of management should work as a motivational force and build towards a company supported SHE culture, which is consistently practiced by both management and employees. Commitment should be translated into the necessary resources required to develop and harness the correct controls and accountability, so that they can provide constant feedback and modify issues and close gaps.

Fatal incidents around the world have showed convincingly that lives are lost, families and communities ruined, not because of technical failures within an organisation but because of a culture of sloppiness and corner cuttings. Health and safety leadership at the most senior levels in organisations does set the tone and communicates board level expectations. But lack of it can be like a virus hidden within an organisation, waiting with the potential to kill, maim and impose truly massive costs.

The UK and the USA release annual statistics of their work related injuries, work related ill health and lost-time accident records. The Middle East, where no concrete statistics have been available so far, should learn by these examples so that they impact positively on our Safety, Health and Environmental practices. SHE failure can cost a great deal not only to the company, but also to the country as a whole. To the company, higher insurance premiums; substantial fines; low workforce morale and accident costs, including lost production time, can destroy an otherwise good productivity performance. In serious cases in certain countries, it has lead to corporate manslaughter prosecutions, involving directors and senior managers and with it the threat to corporate and personal reputations.

The country we live in too can pay a heavy price. For example, in the United Kingdom alone each year there are about a third of a million reportable injuries and one million injuries of all severities. Over 12,000 deaths due to work related health damage and some 2 million cases of work related ill health. The result is about 26 million working days lost, costing an estimated 2-3 percent of the UK's gross domestic product. These statistics are, in graphic terms, the equivalent of two Boeing 747s crashing every month and killing everyone on board and twenty Boeings landing in the UK every day full of sick and injured people. These statistics have been released by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), UK.

To the high performing companies, safety, health and environmental issues are not just about minimal legal compliance, but about operational integrity and reliability; not just technicalities, but about people; not just individual errors, but about unsafe systems. It is about managing risks, not just reducing liability. In this very volatile world economy that we live in, business education in the sphere of SHE should be made compulsory to the leadership heading these high risk fertiliser industries.

The need of the hour is to send out a powerful message that will reverberate and lift reluctant Middle East leaders towards a much more positive engagement towards Safety, Health and Environment. They must realise that SHE is an integral part of corporate governance; one which tells directors that it is their top level commitment to be emotionally bonded to SHE and that speaks volumes about their company's values, professionalism and performance. As we witness live, global catastrophes as they occur time and again, it is a question every organisation and its leadership must ask...Is it worth risking people's lives to death or injury?

Measures necessary to safeguard personnel in emergencies can have adverse environmental effects sometimes. However, joint consideration of Safety, Health and Environmental issues must be discussed, in order to build a solid framework and maintain a constructive network with line management and supervisory staff. It is the leaders who must ensure that strict measures are in place, through training and auditing and compliance to SHE international standards. For if you can harness the knowledge and help of the workforce, then you will unleash a force for SHE like no other.

Attitude to Safety, Health and Environment is determined by the Senior Executives and not by the size of the organisation.