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Pedalling to the summit: part 2

World Cement,

Read part 1 here.

Do you think best practice on health and safety could be shared more effectively across businesses and across industries?

For sure it can, but it is not an easy job. In our opinion the best practice any organisation needs to implement is to foster your own employees to define how they want to reach H&S excellence. Best practices are a good way to create inspiration. Nevertheless, pride in H&S is very important and reproducing best practices has the risk of triggering the ‘not-invented-here’ syndrome. There is a sweet spot every organisation needs to find balancing the reproduction of best practices and the creation of their own, so that organisational pride towards H&S is not compromised.

Does Lafarge spread the health and safety message with the communities in which it works?

At the Lafarge Group, it has already been seven years since we started mobilising all our employees, as well as our subcontractors and sites, everywhere around the world during our Health and Safety Month. During this month, there are plenty of activities involving not only our employees and contractors but also local stakeholders (schools, local communities and neighbourhoods, city councils, local regulatory bodies, etc). Since the very beginning it has been quite a success. In most places we are now considered a reference in health and safety and we are called on to give guidance, speeches and preach the good word about health and safety. We are very proud of these results, and it puts even more pressure on us to deliver excellent results year after year.

The Sagunto plant has been granted entry into the Lafarge Group’s ‘Excellence in Health and Safety Club’. What conditions does a plant have to meet to gain entry into this club?

The Lafarge Health and Safety Excellence Club is a great recognition from the Lafarge Group that only a handful of sites and countries achieve. The criteria go well beyond the zero accidents achievement. It actually judges how you have obtained the result, and includes an external audit of the HSMS, proven evidence of all the leading activities that have led to the results. The criteria to reach excellence is quite demanding, as it measures employee and contractor performance and even goes beyond the site, with transport and any other activity offsite also included.

Can you tell us a bit more about the aims of Lafarge’s ‘Annual Health and Safety Month’ and what this involves?

The H&S month is an opportunity to gather to celebrate results, to reward individual, team and site performance and to cover any specific ground that day-to-day H&S may not cover. It is the time of the year when we deliver lots of training on soft skills or on health and emergency preparedness. For instance, in Spain we have also been covering psycho-sociological aspects of work, running workshops on wellbeing techniques such as mindfulness or laugh therapy. Most of the activity of the month is geared towards interactive team-building meetings around health and safety. Last but not least, it is the moment of the year we choose to have a big celebration meeting with our employees, contractors and local stakeholders where we share our results with all and recognise the outstanding performers (employees, teams, contractors or drivers).

A wide range of events take place during Health and Safety Month, including interactive team-building exercises.

How does Lafarge ensure that contractors, drivers, etc., are subject to the same high standard of health and safety best practice as the employees at its production sites?

In Spain, contractors and drivers have been in the scope of our HSMS system from the very beginning. Over the past few years we have been implementing a thorough contractor safety management programme including site contractors and drivers. Most of them have been selected over the years so that they are now our partners in the journey to excellence and they know and share our values. They know our behavioural observation programme very well, as well as the consequences of desired or undesired behaviours, and their health and safety performance is evaluated after each job with a bonus/malus system attached to it. So far the system has also proven to be successful, but I will not hide the fact that road transport remains our biggest challenge. Even after significant efforts to develop defensive driving skills, training them to increase their health and safety awareness, and placing all kinds of SOPs, the risks of the road are somehow not always under their control. Even if we have not had any accidents on the road with our drivers, be it employees or contracted haulers, we still need to work hard on the subject to get to the highest level.

A training session at Lafarge.

What are Lafarge Spain’s plans for continuing to improve its H&S record in the future?

Our HSMS system is based on the very simple Deming’s PDCA continuous improvement cycle. Employees observe and detect opportunities for improvement, Health and Safety Awareness Teams define the corrective actions, resources and deadlines. The organisation is entirely geared towards disciplined execution rewarded by our bonus/malus system, and monthly follow-up meetings ensure actions are implemented to close gaps. Keeping the HSMS alive and running should ensure a never-ending continuous improvement cycle. We are very proud to see the incredible step-change we have accomplished over the past few years, and every year we are surprised by how much more sophisticated and demanding we are becoming. We think that keeping this cycle going will still bring further results and that we need to keep it running. In parallel, we are committed to fighting against complacency.

Our worst enemy now is the sense of safety that our robust system is bringing. We need to make sure that task risk assessments are always performed in depth prior to each job and are adjusted to the changing conditions of every day. We need to keep pedalling to get to the summit, even if we are well aware that it is a never-ending journey.

This is an abridged version of the full article, which appeared in the April 2015 issue of World Cement. Subscribers can read the full article by logging in. They can also read the magazine on smart phones and tablets by downloading World Cement’s app.

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