By Philbert Chua

For PSA International, workplace safety and health (WSH) is not just a policy in the company, but a foundational piece of our operations.

Aside from giving our employees a safe environment in which to work, safe operations also assure our partners and customers that we are delivering good efficient service.

For PSA, work safety and health is a priority. The policies and directions are set and communicated at the start of every year; all of it is cascaded down at the regional levels and then down to the respective business units.

We set KPIs for maintaining WSH at all levels. Some such KPIs are lost time injury incidents, measurement of lost time injury frequency. Safety is also measured by the number of inspections conducted, the coverage and type of infringements.

Every incident that happens is reported because when an incident is reported, it gives us an opportunity to look at it, find the gaps in our processes, and correct it. Many [small] incidents that are not addressed can lead to a serious accident.

Positive behaviour is also recognised and rewarded because we believe it is just as effective in ensuring a safe environment. Safety should not just be about issuing summons and penalising people. When there is a total buy-in of the policies and people feel good about them, they will choose to adopt a safer way of working.

But this robust culture of WSH is not achieved over a short time. Admittedly, some 30 years ago, it wasn’t all safe. There were rules, but the compliance level wasn’t high. People did not wear overalls and safety boots and helmets, for example.

It took about 20 years of working together to bring it to where it is now.

We have been able to achieve a robust WSH culture through active participation from our top leadership. Supervisors and managers must “walk the talk” and lead by example.

Safety is a funny thing. It’s about the behaviour of the individual and it bears its own risk, yet it has to be reminded by someone else that it is important to work safely. We have to continue to oversee them as people tend to get complacent. They take things for granted and that’s when we have to always remind them.

Battling Covid-19 challenges helped by robust WSH culture

This gold standard of WSH PSA International has attained has put us in good stead when COVID-19 hit.

The port, during the circuit breaker, had to continue operations because we needed to keep the goods moving, the supply chains open, not just for Singapore but for the world. We had to keep our workers safe by instituting safe measures – wearing of masks, keeping a safe distance, reorganising ourselves so that we work in bubbles rather than in groups of people mixing around. We had safety ambassadors walking around to guide people on what should or should not be done.

As a result of a very high level of compliance, we were able to tackle the Covid-19 challenges effectively. Even though we operate two [workers] dormitories with over 3,000 workers, we only had two cases.

Constant communication is critical in keeping the WSH culture alive and effective throughout the organisation.

One of the challenges in maintaining safety and health in the organisation is keeping a persistent presence and communication with the people. It starts from the top – management’s support on safety is important to have.

At PSA, a toolbox briefing is given at the start of each work day. At that briefing, every incident is discussed during the briefings so that everyone learns that such actions are not advisable and are unsafe and they should therefore take precautions for them.

PSA spares nothing in ensuring worker safety by providing dedicated teams of people looking at WSH issues. For every five workers, there is one supervisor who looks after them. That supervisor leads the team not just in the official work tasks, but in safety as well. We train every officer and supervisor in safety. Safety is not just the responsibility of one division but it is borne by every business unit, from the head down to the supervisor.

Philbert Chua is head of HSSE Southeast Asia, PSA Corporation.


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