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World Day for Safety and Health at Work: Why safety isn’t an afterthought for EMR

World Day for Safety and Health at Work arrives on 28 April and is an excellent opportunity for EMR to celebrate the efforts it takes to make the metal recycling industry safer. At EMR our culture is best described by the EMR way – we ‘care’ and we ‘do’. We care about our people, customers, workplace and communities, and it is this that drives our ambition to make our sites a safe place for all.

“The work we do on site is demanding and sometimes highly technical. With that comes several risks,” says Tony Rose, EMR’s UK Safety, Health and Environmental (SHE) Operational Excellence Manager.

At the heart of EMR’s approach to health and safety is its SHE Perfect Day objective. The vision that we start each new day with the expectation that it can be perfect, free of injury, major vehicle accidents and environmental harm. EMR has developed a range of strategies to achieve this vision.

The Stop Work Authority initiative empowers all employees to respond immediately to a hazardous situation. Whether an EMR employee is a newly recruited apprentice or a site manager with decades of experience, it is vital that every individual on site can halt an operation if they feel it could be unsafe.

“Through our team of SHE specialists and site managers, we have implemented an ongoing training programme that empowers everyone to identify a real or perceived risk and give them authority to stop operations,” says Tony.

Rather than jeopardising the productivity of EMR’s sites, Tony is clear the Stop Work Authority policy safeguards it long term: ensuring EMR employees and third parties are not at risk of injury or worse.

Crucial in helping EMR staff make these difficult judgements about personal safety is identifying the risks that exist. “We recently updated our Life Rules policies and guidance, which highlights the operations that present the highest risks to our employees’ safety,” says Tony. “These are working at height, confined space entry, line of fire (pedestrian safety), loading and unloading safety, hot work safety, energy isolation, transport and driving safety and permit to work.”

The final element – permit to work – ensures that health and safety standards are kept high even when visitors to site, such as maintenance contractors, are carrying out the work.

Why is this work so important? It should be recognised that in decades gone by, metal recycling in the UK had a poor record for protecting its employees. In parts of the developing world, horrific levels of fatalities and injuries continue to blight the industry.

While EMR has long placed health and safety at the top of its priorities, Tony says its drive to further improve safety standards is stronger than ever: “Since last year our SHE Perfect Day objective has become a key component of everything we do, if EMR meets a set of rigorous criteria for safety, it is recorded, shared and celebrated throughout the business as a ‘SHE Perfect Day’”.

Tony admits this was initially something of a culture shift for EMR but it means that with good communications across the business, including the use of Incident Review Boards, lessons learned at one site can help improve the workings of every other site where EMR operates,

In recent years, what health and safety means to a modern business has changed as wider society has put greater focus on mental, as well as physical, health.

“At EMR we’ve recently recruited a group of Mental Health Champions. Through a Mental Health First Aid course, they’ve been given the skills to recognise issues which other staff may have.”

Tony says this development is another vital step in helping keep EMR’s employees safe: “If you’ve got a happy workforce and you’re looking after their wellbeing, you’re ultimately going to have a safer workplace.”

Ensuring the health and safety of every one of EMR’s 4,000 employees clearly isn’t an easy task but, as Tony says, what lies behind the work he and his team do, is a very simple motivation. “At the end of the day our biggest asset is our people, without them we don’t operate. It’s absolutely critical that they come to work feeling safe, knowing that the company cares about them and that they’re going to go home safe too.”

As responsibilities go, there aren’t many more important than that.

For more information on EMR: emrgroup.com