The integrated mandate

The integrated mandate

The integration of individual SHEQ strategies is one of the most powerful links in the chain of SHEQ capabilities for manufacturing and engineering firms, as KERRY DIMMER explains.

It’s no secret that SHEQ strategies can create or lessen competitive advantage; it’s always been so. However, in current times there are new elements that add to risks: new technologies and cybersecurity; deeper regulation compliance; and new societal and economic costs that have been underscored most recently by Covid-19 workplace health. And, with the global public focus on environmentally friendly design applied in the manufacturing of products, transparency, corporate citizenship and zero harm principles apply … The list is so long that manufacturers and engineering firms might be forgiven for prioritising one SHEQ mandate over another.

Health and safety are likely at the top of the priority list because they are vital to manufacturing and engineering organisations’ ongoing employee, operational and financial health and performance. However much as priorities differ among the sectors and players, one thing is clear: the aggressiveness of a firm’s response to safety, health, environment and quality challenges can only be matched by similarly aggressive strategies, the components of which must integrate with one another.

Key to such integration is “compliance and certification,” says Eskom, which is the approach it has taken, and maintains, regardless of its current challenges with ageing infrastructure. Eskom is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 engineering companies in the country and is therefore under the spotlight to demonstrate SHEQ leadership skills. It highlights compliance as a bare minimum, which is “non-negotiable” and abides by licence and legislative requirements through effective management systems, monitoring, reporting and research to ensure standardisation.

Afrox, the sub-Saharan Africa’s market leader in gases and welding products, has taken a similar approach in that SHEQ items are non-negotiable. It acknowledges that in the past it did not perform satisfactorily in all areas, but with the appointment of its GM Stephen Moran, who has international experience within the holding group Linde, new SHEQ policies and actions are being formulated, introduced and monitored effectively. All SHEQ strategies are integrated and applied equally to the environment, employees and communities in which Afrox operates, inclusive of contractors.

While many similar organisations apply such strategies in-house, there are external options that can be applied just as effectively, especially those that are technology-based and designed to inform and engage frontline workers, who usually are the majority of the workforce. Wyzetalk is one. It creates customised mobile employee experience solutions designed to connect organisations with their dispersed frontline workforces on any mobile device, anywhere in the world.

Sinazo Sibisi, MD regions of Wyzetalk, explains how the innovation works effectively to minimise SHEQ safety and health risks. “When you consider that, on average, 9,1 working days are lost due to injuries and 19,8 days are lost to ill-health, it is plain to see why digitising SHEQ systems is vital if manufacturing and engineering organisations are to improve operational efficiencies and boost production,” she says.

Wyzetalk has a standard SHEQ solution, and one that was adopted by Anglo Gold Ashanti. Former chairperson of the mining conglomerate Sipho Pityana said of the product: “We’ve had a fatality-free first quarter, which is unprecedented in the history of the company. We’ve also had an uninterrupted fatality-free nine months – a historic first. These are both very important milestones.”

One of the advantages of using external SHEQ solution-providers is that they are easily able to identify and react to challenges. Sibisi uses Covid-19 as an example. “The safety of the workforce must be aligned to continued operational efficiencies. Wyzetalk has digitised self-screening processes linked to turnstiles, which decreases delays caused by manual Covid-19 screening processes. It also enables, at the touch of a button, the dissemination of information critical to workforce engagement.”

Using the power of mobile devices, which are in the hands of almost all employees, is one of the most effective ways to ensure that all workers are connected, and in being connected they become engaged participants, empowered to enact, understand and even contribute to SHEQ compliance.

Tech does, however, expose industries to cybersecurity threats, which saw an uptake of intrusion activity in the manufacturing sector in 2020, impacting some of the country’s mining and resources sectors, says professional services firm, PwC. It’s a fine balancing act: on the one hand integrating several management processes into a unified system provides surety that all protocols and guidelines are consistent and reliable, but on the other hand SHEQ systems could also be affected by cyberattacks given a growing dependence on smart devices to support such functions. PwC’s forensic technology solutions leader Junaid Amra urges industries to embed a safety culture against potential cyberattacks: “The likelihood and consequences of such should not be downplayed.”

While it may be that organisations within the manufacturing and engineering industries struggle to create or manage effective overarching SHEQ strategies, their need to do so has never been greater, given current market forces and focus, technological changes, and rapidly emerging safety and health issues, all of which threaten profitability. What is clear is that regardless of individual SHEQ priorities, solutions must be holistic and strike the right balance between compliance to legislation, implementation, and how those will influence people’s behaviour, and not just when there is a crisis. 

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SHEQ Management

SHEQ MANAGEMENT is the definitive source for reliable, accurate and pertinent information to guarantee environmental health and safety in the workplace.
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