Overload of safety initiatives add to steelworkers’ concerns on safety
The ArcelorMittal and union Joint Global Health and Safety Committee (JGHSC) visited the Polish steel plant in Dabrowa Gornicza.
POLAND: When does a focus on safety become a hazard itself? That's the issue that management and local unions are trying to find common ground on at a steel plant in Poland. Concerns by local union leaders centre on the number of safety initiatives introduced to improve standards. The Joint Global Health and Safety Committee (JGHSC) of ArcelorMittal recently visited the plant and believes that the expertise in the local joint health and safety committees hold the key to a solution.
During the site visit at Dabrowa Gornicza the JGHSC got to see firsthand just what difference recent investments had made in the plant. In particular good standards in housekeeping, changing facilities and lighting formed a good overall impression of the areas visited. The areas identified by the JGHSC for improvement included awareness of the need to use correct personal protective equipment, an evaluation of the sighting of some of the safety signage and also improving systems for contractor management.
ArcelorMittal is the largest steel producer in Poland, employing more than 12,000. It supplies 70 percent of Poland's domestic steel demand and has 11 production facilities. The Dabrowa Gornicza facility is one of two big steel plants, the other being in Krakow. It first started production in 1976 as a state-owned enterprise. Since joining the ArcelorMittal group over $US1 billion has been invested into the plant.
Rob Johnston, Executive Director at the IMF commented during the visit "The standards and conditions that we saw in the plant don't match with the overall safety performance. A genuine concern of the union is that workers are feeling stressed by management trying to over-manage workers in frustration at past safety performance. The local joint health and safety committee must play a more prominent role and use its capacity and knowledge to find a balance and simplify the different programs being used".
The JGHSC also held conference calls with sites previously visited to get an update on improvements. These included a number of sites in the United States, Turbaro (Brazil), Zenica (Bosnia) and Vanderbijlpark (South Africa). All of the sites are continuing to work on the previously developed action plans. A review of the work of the JGHSC is now available in English and shortly also in French, Spanish, German and Portuguese. The next meeting of the JGHSC will be held January 17-18 in Asturias, Spain.
The JGHSC welcomed Andrea Husen-Bradley from the European Metalworkers' Federation and Sherman Crowder from the United Steelworkers to its team. Tony Murphy and Jose Wagner have stepped down from the committee and the members wish them well in their new endeavors.
Nov 11, 2011 – Rob Johnston