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African Petrochemicals is South Africa’s leading quarterly print and digital trade magazine for the past 16 years. Featuring all the latest petrochemical industry news, special reports, technological advances and much more.

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BABCOCK – Their unwavering commitment to safety pays off

As a company that carries out the majority of its projects and services in high-risk environments, Babcock’s ongoing safety accolades prove that it does not pay lip service to safety, and that every employee in the organisation matters.

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Trophy for safety excellence awards

In 2018 Babcock’s unwavering commitment to safety earned the company a Health and Safety award in the SEIFSA (Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa) Awards for Excellence. The award acknowledged Babcock’s Ntuthuko Engineering business for reaching 1 793 888 man-hours worked with zero lost-time incidents on a high-risk half-station shutdown project at a local power station. The immensely risky project involved the concurrent overhaul of three boiler units at a power station in the Free State, with an average of 700 people per boiler working above and below each other at height, in dark and constrained areas.

Then at the end of 2019, Babcock recorded a zero disabling injury incident rate (DIIR) across all its business units, with six million hours worked over the previous 12 months without a lost-time injury.

Babcock’s Ntuthuko Engineering business achieved an exceptional record of 15,5 million safe man-hours worked on various sites for 33 months, from August 2017 to April 2020.

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The BNE team celebrating safety achievements at the Health and Safety Awards event held in Gauteng in 2019 Roger O Callaghan addressing guests on the achievement of ZERO DIIR

“All our major construction sites, as well as our fabrication facilities, achieved more than 1 000 days without a lost-time injury, with one of our sites recording more than 4.7 million hours without a lost-time injury – a world class safety performance,” says Welma Prinsloo, Managing Director at Babcock Ntuthuko Engineering.

The business unit’s General Manager SHERQ, Mpho Matshane, says that this is an unheard of achievement for a business that is operational in a very high-risk construction environment, and that relies on a workforce where at least 90% of the man-hours are worked by contingent labour resources, some of whom have never been exposed to high safety standards or high-risk environments.

“This, together with other challenges such as managing 11 different languages, cultural diversities and stress factors, made Babcock’s safety achievement all the more significant,” says Matshane. 

She attributes this exceptional safety milestone to leadership visibility and responsibility contributing towards a well-entrenched safety culture. “The safety culture at Babcock is owned by the leadership within the organisation; leaders that makes themselves visible, show a passion for safety and have a positive attitude that is contagious across the whole business unit.”

Matshane adds that the organisation is supported by a strong, competent and visible SHEQ team, and a solid safety framework. “Our weekly induction and work stoppage programmes, daily toolbox talks, inspections of tools and equipment, and all our other safety initiatives as part of the Babcock Safety Lens business imperative serve to instil a safety culture that ensures we all to go home safe every day, and return to work the next day.

“We also pay particular attention to incident reporting including near miss reporting and incidents. Our focus on near miss reporting, unsafe conditions and unsafe acts continues daily and is a major contributor towards the success story.

“The risks and challenges we encounter are constantly reviewed and our policies, procedures and safety initiatives are adjusted accordingly. The learnings are shared across all sites so that our processes and behaviours continue to contribute towards maintaining the current safety performance. Our employees are recognised as crucial stakeholders in health and safety, and their participation in risk assessment and management is vital.

“We celebrate every time we achieve the milestones and reward our employees for good initiatives. We set the next safety milestones, investigate why first aid and medical incidents occur, and strive to learn from our lessons – all part of the overall strategy working towards zero harm,” says Matshane.

Prinsloo comments that Babcock lives a ‘Life after zero DIIR’ which requires the team and the leaders to keep the focus on safety. “Every project requires safety to be integrated with quality and operational efficiencies. As change is happening every day with new clients, new technologies and new sites, business must adapt and innovate to remain relevant.

“Through our ‘Quality – My Pride – My Future’ initiative, employees are motivated to deliver quality work that meets customers’ needs. Employees take pride in their work and perform every task with care and diligence.

“The future success and growth of Babcock and our employees is built on the highest standards of excellence and a safety culture that make sure that everyone goes home safe every day,” concludes Prinsloo.

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