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Editorial comment

In the wake of the News of the World (NotW) phone hacking scandal here in the UK, the question of culpability has been much discussed. The chain of command of a weekly newspaper that belongs to an international corporation comprising more than 50 000 employees is understandably long, but one-by-one key links in the chain are being exposed.

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The scandal has also spread to include politicians and the Metropolitan Police where the Commissioner and an Assistant Commissioner have been forced to resign. On 19 July, Rubert Murdoch, CEO and Chairman of News Corporation, which owned NotW, was summoned to a hearing of the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee to face questions over his knowledge of the tabloid’s misconduct (he had none, by the way; no idea any of it was going on; very sorry, etc. etc.). News Corp has confirmed there is no intention to replace Murdoch as CEO, but clearly the question has been raised. On 20 July, UK Prime Minister David Cameron returned home from a trip to Africa ahead of schedule in order to face MPs over his decision to employ former NotW Editor Andy Coulson as the party’s Director of Communications in 2007 (deeply regrettable, no knowledge of past misdeeds, no inappropriate conversations, etc. etc.). In the eyes of the world – meaning, of course, the eyes of the media – blame has shifted swiftly from the reporters and private investigator immediately involved in the wrongdoing, to those higher up the chain who either sanctioned the crime or created an environment in which such actions became, if not necessary, then at least commonplace.

So, what does this have to do with the cement industry? Well, I’m thinking about safety. Accidents can and do happen. People make mistakes; things go wrong. Who takes responsibility for those mistakes? At the most basic level, clearly, employees need to make their safety their own responsibility: wear safety gear; read warning signs; don’t take risks. But someone needs to make sure that safety equipment is available; that staff have been taught to know what warning signs they should look out for; that employees are made aware of risks and know what action should be taken to avoid accidents. Whose responsibility is that? Probably the HSE Manager or equivalent. So someone needs to employ an HSE Manager and make sure that he or she has the skills and the tools to pass on that information. Whose responsibility is that? And so it goes on up the ladder, so that ultimately the entire company shares the responsibility for creating a culture of safety that requires personnel to look out for themselves and their colleagues – rather than a culture in which profit is king to the detriment of all else.

Safety has been topmost in my mind of late, and I’d really like to hear what you are doing to promote it in your company. You can either send me an email, or find the WORLD CEMENT group on LinkedIn where I’ve opened a discussion about it. Also, since we’re not in the habit of hacking into anyone’s phone, we’ve set up a short survey so that you can tell us what you think of the magazine. It should take you less than a minute to complete and it’s completely anonymous. You can find it at