If we fail, people die

I recently attended the 14th annual HSE Excellence Europe in Amsterdam and it reminded me – yet again – of the vital importance of proper health and safety procedures. After all, if SHEQ professionals fail at their jobs, people die …

“Ten people will die at work today in Europe. Ten people died yesterday. Ten more will die tomorrow.” This sobering opening statement by Davide Scotti, head of HSE culture, communication and training at Saipem, drove home the need for the conference and, indeed, the necessity for trained SHEQ professionals.

Saipem is an Italian company that specialises in engineering, drilling and the construction of major projects in the energy and infrastructure sectors. It employs 32 000 people in 62 countries.

According to Scotti, safety can be improved in companies via a number of different means. The first is by leveraging emotional engagement. He explained that he actually bought into the field of health and safety after he extinguished a fire, saving a life in the process.

“Someone came up to me after this incident and said ‘thanks’. It was that word that really impacted on me. That’s what safety is all about! Things won’t change without emotional engagement!” he stressed.

The second involves planned interventions. At Saipem, a programme called Leadership in Health and Safety (LIHS) was introduced in 2007. “While our safety record at Saipem was reasonably good, people were still dying. We established that 90 percent of our accidents were behaviourally related, and so we decided to target these behaviours,” Scotti told delegates.

More than 160 000 people have now participated in the LIHS programme, which aims to develop safety leaders. “At Saipem, we believe that it is possible to instil a culture through effective safety leadership. It’s our leaders who build and shape our culture through their daily messages, decisions and actions,” he explained.

According to Scotti, not all leaders are safety leaders. “A safety leader does not leave his safety values at home. He cares for the people at work like he cares for the people at home,” he related.

The LIHS programme was rolled out in three distinct phases. The first involved a workshop for managers. The second involved cascading the key LIHS messages to the entire workforce. Phase three involved the rollout of the company’s Five Stars Intervention training tool, a simple five-step tool, which helps employees intervene when they see unsafe behaviour.


“We needed to communicate the message that unsafe actions are simply unacceptable. This is a big challenge because it’s still not socially unacceptable to be unsafe. If you’re in a non-smoking restaurant and someone lights up, you will report it, but many people won’t report a safety offence …” Scotti noted.

The programme has yielded tangible results at Saipem. There were 52 lost-time injuries in 2016. This dropped to 40 in 2017, and 36 in 2018.

Saipem’s passion for lifting the safety bar doesn’t apply only to the company and its employees. In 2010, it formed the Leadership in Health and Safety Foundation, a non-profit organisation formed to develop research activities, training programmes and information campaigns pertaining to health and safety.

Scotti is general secretary of the Foundation, which has run many incredible projects, covering lots of issues – from the wearing of seatbelts to the promotion of healthy lifestyles. It even runs a campaign called “Italy loves sicurezza” (meaning “Italy loves safety”), which has promoted safety in the workplace and in everyday life at about 1100 events.

The Foundation’s reach is vast, and so it’s impossible to say how many accidents it has prevented or how many lives it has saved, but one thing is certain: it’s made the world a safer place, and we salute that.

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Charleen Clarke

My friends call me a glomad (a global nomad lest you don’t get it). That’s a particularly apt word, because I am always trawling all corners of the globe, looking for stories. As a result, I have slept in some seriously strange places – on a bed of ice in the Arctic circle, on the floor in a traditional Japanese hotel, on the sand dunes in the Wadi Rum Desert in Jordan … and even on the floor of a Thai cargo ship. Mostly however I tend to sleep on aircraft (if I had a dog, he would bark at me when I eventually come home). I am passionate about trucks, cars, travel, food, wine, people and hugs – so I write about all these things. Except the hugs.
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