Hesham Alawi Abdulla, head of safety at Aluminium Bahrain (Alba), discusses the level of health and safety awareness in Bahrain and how Alba has driven a culture of extreme ownership in safety from the top
The level of health and safety awareness in Bahrain has been progressing significantly thanks to the efforts of governmental and non-governmental organisations, commented Abdulla.
“Government organisations such as the Ministry of Labour & Social Development and the Ministry of Interior with its different divisions are doing a lot to disseminate information and raise awareness. The Directorate of traffic is putting out a lot of driver safety campaigns. The Civil Defence is doing a lot of awareness raising, and recently there have been many campaigns directed by the Ministry of Interior, for example, a recent campaign called “Together” which is teaching people how to be safe in swimming pools in the summer. There are also campaigns about electronic devices and being safe on the internet, especially with regards to children.
“Non-government organisations such as the Bahrain Health & Safety Society are also doing a lot to raise awareness of the public in Bahrain."
“Bahrain faces the same challenges as elsewhere. It is a small country, but big in terms of its businesses, people and economy. We have heard a lot about the challenges at this magnificent conference, we’ve heard about the challenges in oil and gas, and challenges in rescue and emergency response from the Ministry of Interior Civil Defence section live mock drill."
“We have also seen the challenges in legislation, led by the Ministry of Labour & Social Development, who are putting a lot of effort into preventing incidents from happening and taking a proactive rather than a reactive stance.”
Turning to Alba, he commented, “Alba has the challenges of shifting paradigms in the culture, taking the lead in health and safety among the other smelters in the world.” Set to be the largest aluminium smelter in the world when the Line 6 expansion is complete, Alba faces safety challenges such as molten metal, electricity, hot environment, worker behaviour and contractor management. Abdulla highlights the step change Alba has achieved in its safety performance since a change of leadership in 2012, when the current CEO was appointed, with the challenge of turning Alba’s poor health and safety performance into a good one.
“This was done by determination, personal involvement and leadership from the CEO which was then cascaded to the executive, to the directors and management and now cascaded to the employers themselves, where we have an interdependent relationship between employees and an employee to employee health and safety culture.” The CEO leads safety and engages continuously with employees at all levels, he added.
“We have a saying in health and safety “If health and safety don’t start from the top, it doesn’t start at all.”
Engagement is driven by activities such as safety campaigns, an annual Town Hall meeting where all results are presented to employees, and ‘safety shares’ at the start of every meeting.
The company has recorded an increase in safety training, behavioural observations safety suggestions and near miss reporting.
“All accidents are preventable, that’s the belief in our organisation,” he said. “Our aim is zero harm.”
“The key takeaway is ‘When employees take extreme ownership of their problems, their problems will be solved.’ We have reached the stage where our employees are taking ownership.”
Alba recorded six million working hours without LTI at the end of May, and its high safety standards have been recognised by numerous awards by bodies such as RosPA, the British Safety Council and the National Safety Council.