Aditya Birla Chemicals
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Safety at Aditya Birla Chemicals: The zero heroes

November 2012

India is the land where the concept of 'nothingness' was formalised as a value – zero. The value of zero takes on tremendous significance in one critical area of business that impacts people and the environment directly – safety. True or absolute safety in industry implies zero injuries, zero leaks and spills, zero accidents and mishaps, zero negative impact on people and environment.

Mr. Lalit Naik

Safety was always important for the business. In the last couple of years the concept has gained further focus and momentum. "Safety is more than just a matter of compliance. We want it to be sustainably and intrinsically driven, as a part of normal day-to-day operations. We want to be recognised as a company that cares for the employees, entire workforce and the society at large.

Being in the business of hazardous chemicals, safety has to be of prime focus. The concept is now part of our business vision statement," says Aditya Birla Chemicals Business Head Lalit Naik.

Push from the top
For over one year now, the business has engaged DuPont, the global thought leader in safety, to provide consultancy and training on improving safety parameters at its plants in India and Thailand. DuPont's safety consultants are working with the business' senior leaders, managers, plant personnel and support staff to ensure that the entire organisation develops a culture of safety that translates into improved performance.

"The first premise of safety is that all injuries are preventable," says Charlie Swyer, the consultant who's spearheading the movement at the Aditya Birla Chemicals Business. To set the safety goalpost at zero injuries implies that the entire organisation needs to change its thinking.

That is why the DuPont-Aditya Birla Chemicals Business engagement started with a safety perception survey that measured and mapped the people mindset. This survey has helped benchmark the business against global standards and established the baseline on which to measure improvements over time.

A safety management system that will help the business deal with and learn from events and incidents that occur has also been drawn up.

That the organisation is very serious about safety is clear from the visible and strong commitment from the leaders down. The company has set up a safety steering committee comprising senior leaders and chaired by Mr Naik. The committee meets at frequent intervals to discuss the progress and give direction to the business for achieving its goal. Then there are apex committees and sub-committees that look into critical aspects of safety at units.

Seeing and learning
An interesting initiative that helps drive home the message is the practice of making safety observations. Every senior manager visiting a plant has to make a safety observation about that site, which is then acted upon.

Another top-down initiative is that each manager signs a personal pledge committing to safety and is expected to role model safe behaviour – such as wearing seatbelts, helmets, safety shoes, etc. Multiple methods to effectively communicate the concept down to all levels are being used and reward and recognition schemes being rolled out.

DuPont is conducting a series of 'Train the trainers' programmes with batches of managers; this will help cascade the learning across the organisation. For any organisation, safety is a slow journey; it needs time and momentum to become self-sustainable. What makes the effort worthwhile is that there are already signs of visible change at the sites. For instance, truck drivers carrying supplies to the Nagda site in Madhya Pradesh have now learnt to not only switch off their engines before leaving the trucks but also use wheel chocks to ensure that the vehicle does not roll.

At Aditya Birla Chemicals, the safety programme is being constructed with a long-term perspective. By committing resources to goals that are measurable only by nothingness, the company is demonstrating its respect and value for all stakeholders, including people on the site, communities nearby and the environment at large.

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