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ENGAGEMENT IN SAFETY

SAVES LIVES

Establishing safety as a common cause and communicating openly about incidents has played a big part in raising company-wide employee engagement in safety and lowering the number of fatalities in fellow Maersk Group company, APM Terminals.

ENGAGED IN A COMMON CAUSE

In spring of 2012, APM Terminals appointed the CEO of their Europe region, Martin Poulsen, their Global Safety Activist. His brief was simple: to reduce the company’s number of fatal accidents. Since his appointment, the company has gone from 10-12 annual fatalities to 5 in 2012 and 3 at the time of writing. One of his initiatives has been a campaign of openness about the problem, rallying and engaging employees around the world under a common cause.

PUTTING A FACE ON VICTIMS

“For instance, if we have a fatal accident, every business unit has to mark it somehow. Some operations fly the flag on half mast, others have a minute of silence, it doesn’t really matter how as long as we all mark it,” explains Martin Poulsen. In a company with 25,000 employees and business units in more than 60 countries, a fatal accident somewhere could be dismissed as just something that happened very far away. For this reason as well, Martin Poulsen always makes sure to include the name and some details of the victim if a fatality has occurred, and also photos of the accident. “That way it’s not just someone who lived on the other side of the world. It was Mr Pham, and he leaves a wife and four children. This is what happened to him and what can happen to anyone if we’re not careful and don’t follow procedures. We’re being quite graphic about it, and it all helps making it more personal and getting people engaged,” he explains.

KEEPING THE CLOCK TICKING

Another initiative has been the counter installed on the front page of APM Terminals’ main intranet news page. It simply counts the days, hours and seconds since the last fatal accident. Initially criticised by some as a morbid curiosity, it has become a constant reminder of the company’s shared commitment to safety. Every day that goes by without the clock being reset is a shared success.

MANAGEMENT'S RESPONSIBILITY

While acknowledging the studies showing a connection between engagement and safety, Martin Poulsen warns against thinking that high engagement levels alone will fix safety. “Engagement is a cornerstone in all of this, and I am certain there is a correlation between engagement and safety,” he says. “The thing is, you can have the most engaged employees in the whole world, but if you don’t provide them with the right tools and the right training and don’t lead the way, accidents will still happen.”

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