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Health and safety

The health and safety of our people is paramount. In FY2020, we have continued to establish a culture of safety excellence within Birla Carbon – steered by strong leadership and driven by the commitment of our own people to setting as a priority their own safety and the safety of others. In light of the global spread of COVID‑19, we acted quickly to ensure each of our employees was kept safe and healthy no matter where in the world they were.

Building a strong safety culture takes time; we do not pretend to be at the end of our journey. There is always room for progress at every level, as we develop a workspace in which we take responsibility for the safety of every one of our employees.

Safety: Progress towards our target

Achieve zero recordable injuries year on year (employee and contractor Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR)).

Reducing workplace injuries

We are responsible for ensuring that everyone at our facilities is safe, from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave. Our injury rate continues to position us as a leader in our industry. In FY2020, Birla Carbon reported the lowest Lost Workday Case Rate (LWCR) in company history as well as one of the lowest TRIRs in recent years. Ten sites completed the year without a recordable injury to an employee and 14 sites completed the year without a recordable injury to a contractor. We can still do more as we strive for zero incidents, but our progress to date demonstrates that people have understood our safety expectations and are taking care in their daily work.

In FY2017, we introduced leading indicators, designed to proactively prevent incidents and injuries before they occur. These indicators focus on:

  • Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) training and qualification;
  • Responding to hazard reports or employee concerns within 48 hours;
  • Investigating near misses within two business days; and
  • HSE self-assessments and the completion of action plans to address findings.

Focusing on these key indicators, we continue to see positive results. Facilities reported 100% completion of all required HSE training. Nearly 300 near misses were reported in FY2020, with 92% of investigations of these events completed within two business days, an achievement which is considered world class. All sites completed a second round of perception surveys in 2020 and results suggest an increased level of engagement from employees and leaders in HSE initiatives, resulting in a positive change in safety culture. We expect these leading indicators to continue to drive improvements over the coming years and intend to refine them as our culture matures.

Birla Carbon saw a 10% reduction in TRIR in FY2020 as compared to FY2019.

Our health and safety programs

We prepare our people as much as possible to identify and manage the potential safety risks they might face while working in our facilities. This preparation includes adherence to clear standards, processes for work permitting, education, training, auditing and follow-up to reinforce accountability.

Safety management

Our approach to safety and health management involves a methodical, five-step process to ensure that each standard is entirely applicable to our operations.

  1. Developing a standard
  2. Training and implementation
  3. Executing an action plan
  4. Conducting audits
  5. Refining action plans

Developing a standard

In addition to regulatory requirements and recognized industry best practices, we conduct our own retrospective review of incidents and near misses at our sites to develop appropriate standards and expectations. All standards are reviewed and revised every two years.

Training and implementation

Once developed, each plant is responsible for training in and implementing these standards. Our safety leadership training focuses on the roles and responsibilities of leaders in instilling a culture of safety excellence for both our employees and the contracted workforce.

Executing an action plan

Each safety standard is internally and externally validated. An action plan is executed to track its successful implementation, monitor progress and reinforce accountability.

Conducting audits

Each location is audited at two-year intervals by an external body to review the compliance of the safety standards with regulatory requirements and company standards. Safety managers from our other sites also participate in the review process, sharing best practices.

Refining action plans

Specific tasks or activities identified during the audits are addressed by adjusting the action plan, reinforcing our drive for continuous improvement and safety excellence.

Caring for our people during COVID‑19

As the COVID‑19 pandemic spread globally, our first priority was to ensure every one of our employees was kept safe. Crisis Management teams were established globally, regionally and locally to ensure the health and safety of our people.

Serious Injury and Fatality initiative

In FY2019, we rolled out our Serious Injury and Fatality (SIF) focus initiative. This program focuses on higher-risk tasks and situations. Central to this initiative is a re-emphasis on the Safe Six: key areas where high precision is essential to prevent a serious injury or fatality. These areas are lockout-tagout (LOTO), working at heights, mobile equipment, electrical, hot work and confined space.

The focus on SIF is based on the fact that although globally many companies have made great strides to reduce the overall frequency of injuries, there has not been a proportional decline in the number of serious incidents and fatalities.

A critical element of this initiative is the focus on near-miss reporting. According to the Campbell Institute at the National Safety Council, 85% of all serious injuries and fatalities are preceded by near-miss events, and so we also aim to improve near-miss reporting.

This effort continued in FY2020, with sites identifying and implementing best practices for SIF prevention. Likewise, reporting of near-miss events improved, with investigation findings quickly communicated to all sites. Emphasis on SIF prevention and the Safe Six will continue through FY2021 and beyond until they are a part of our safety DNA.

The Safe Six: Key health and safety risks

We encourage individuals to make a personal safety commitment to change the overall safety culture. Among the factors that we ask our employees to consider are these six occupational health risks, which every person working at our sites must be aware of.

Working at height

Use all prescribed PPE for the task, including fall protection where work is performed at heights of above two meters.

Hot work

Secure a hot work permit and follow permit precautions when performing any spark-producing work, such as grinding or welding.

Control of hazardous energies/lock-out

Isolate and verify all types of energy, including electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic and stored, when performing maintenance on equipment. Follow line-breaking procedures when opening equipment that may contain hazardous materials.

Mobile equipment

Be aware of limitations and safety requirements, including the one-meter rule, for operating or working around mobile equipment such as forklift trucks.

Confined spaces

Follow procedures for identifying and controlling risks prior to and during an entry into a confined space to ensure it is safe to enter.

Electrical

Enable all employees to recognize potential electrical hazards and risks; develop systems and procedures, including the use of specialized protective equipment, to reduce the potential risks of arc flash and electrical shock for persons qualified to service and maintain plant electrical systems.

While all of our employees receive regular training and education related to these six critical areas, we believe that this dedicated campaign to increase awareness and reinforce these requirements will help us achieve flawless execution of these principles on a daily basis. In late FY2020, the HSE team began developing micro-learning modules focused on our Safe Six standards. These modules present a full training program for employees in small, easy-to-understand segments that can be viewed over a mobile phone or other portable device.

Changing our health and safety culture

At Birla Carbon, we believe a culture of safety is created and maintained by engaged individuals who actively manage their risks every day. We are continuing to deploy the Commitment Based Safety (CBS) process, through which individuals make personal commitments to manage and discuss the individual risks they face.

Through CBS, we expect every person at every level to take responsibility and be accountable for both their own safety and the safety of those around them. Our aim is to create a culture where all employees are aware of the risks they face and take active care of others; when someone observes someone at risk, we want them to stop and take action to help avert accidents.

Specific risks and the behaviors required to manage them are identified at a site level, and employees create safe habits by providing daily reports on their progress. The understanding is that full compliance is not automatic but that improvements can be made each day and that, once employees can manage their own commitments, they will be more effective at looking after others. We continued to emphasize CBS in FY2020, creating animated CBS modules as part of a micro-learning course.

Protecting our contractors

Improving our health and safety performance demands that we work closely with contractors, who may not work to the same standards that we expect from all our employees. Since we introduced our Global Standard on Contractor Management in 2015, we have seen contractor safety performance improve significantly, with the incident rate halved. In FY2020, we maintained focus on the importance of contractor management and saw a significant reduction in contractor incidents from FY2019 (13 to 6). In FY2020, our contractor TRIR was 0.20 and the LWCR was 0.07.

In FY2018, our sites in North America contracted Avetta, a third-party risk management provider, to improve the qualification process. Avetta collected information from contractors, including safety incidence rates, insurance coverage, and health and safety programs, based on Birla Carbon specifications. The information was evaluated and scored, with each contractor assigned a rating. Only those that met Birla Carbon requirements qualified to work in the plants. The process has also saved the sites time in qualifying and selecting contractors. We are now evaluating the feasibility of expanding the Avetta contractor qualification process to our facilities in other regions.

Our award-winning safety culture in Spain

We have always placed a strong focus on the health and safety of everyone who steps into our facilities. Nowhere is this clearer than at Birla Carbon Spain. The continued dedication to ensuring a strong safety culture has resulted in the plant receiving 10 awards for safety over the last three years.

Auditing our performance

We regularly perform audits across our operations to determine compliance with our regulations and standards. Enablon, our integrated sustainability management system, facilitates data tracking and supports the development of a better understanding of specific issues. It also provides a platform for devising and tracking action plans, ensuring their completion and reinforcing accountability for sites and individuals. In FY2020 we conducted 18 audits at our sites: nine for health and safety and nine for environmental performance (2019: 18 audits).

In FY2020, we completed our first interval of scored HSE audits for all operating facilities. This audit-scoring process enables us to identify common strengths and opportunities for improvement across the organization. These audits encompass compliance with HSE regulatory requirements as well as Birla Carbon’s internal standards. They also assess key leadership activities and management systems on-site.

The average audit score for all sites was 90%. Future audits will stress accountability for improvement against previous results. Results are tracked to completion in an action plan and reported on to company leadership on a monthly basis.

Our HSE standards are central to our audits, which analyze working practices and evaluate standard effectiveness on-site, reporting monthly. Each standard also includes a self-assessment section, which requires site leaders to monitor and track improvements. Several new standards were implemented, with other key standards revised in FY2020, in areas such as inspection, testing and maintenance of fire protection and emergency equipment, and management of change, to improve and reinforce expectations in key areas and address gaps identified in audits.

How we are supporting the SDGs

SDG 3

Good health and well-being

We encourage individual accountability for the health, safety and wellbeing of our employees through our CBS process and a range of health and safety programs.

SDG 8

Decent work and economic growth

The health and safety of our people is a shared value that is integrated into all of our activities. We want our employees to look out for not only their own safety but also the safety of their colleagues.

SDG 17

Partnerships for the goals

We help achieve the goals by working closely with our stakeholders, including community groups, universities, nongovernmental organizations and the Aditya Birla Group. This extends to ensuring our contractors adhere to our safety standards.

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