By Becca Wilson
Dubai Dry Docks’ health and safety manager Tony Potter demonstrates the port’s commitment to health and safety to Becca Wilson.
Imagine being the person who is responsible for the health and safety of over 10,000 employees. It's a demanding and responsible role.
The size of the workforce isn't the only challenge Potter faces. There are hundreds of pieces of machinery to assess for risks, that spread out over the Dock's 200 hectares. Then there's the international language barrier that many companies in the Middle East face.
So what has Potter done in order for Dubai Dry Docks to be recognised as one of the most health and safety conscious companies in the Middle East?
Recently, Dubai Dry Docks was once again awarded with the British Safety Council's Five Star Heath & Safety Management System Audit for the third year running.
It is also OHSAS (Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Services) 18001 and ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) 9001 certified.
In a region where health and safety is often overlooked, the Dry Docks has put itself on the map as a company taking the issue seriously.
"All employees that come to the Dry Dock site go to the health and safety induction, which covers topics relevant to what they will find on site. Most topics revolve around the vessels, required PPE (personal protective equipment), risk assessments, permits to work, hot work procedures, what to do and who to call in the event of an emergency," explains Potter.
Induction training can be listened to in around 11 different languages. Employees are also given a small booklet outlining areas such as: drug and alcohol policy, entry to confined spaces, hot work, chemical cleaning, pipe and valve work, waste management and fire fighting.
Every bit of new equipment and each new scenario goes through a risk assessment to determine what the potential risks are and outline ways to deal with them.
Questions Potter and his team may ask, are: If the piece of machinery fails, what are the consequences? Is it catastrophic failure? Multiple or singular deaths? Is the property going to be damaged? How about damage to the environment? What's the criticality of the failure of that particular component?
Risk assessments are done on every bit of machinery.
"Everything has to be assessed," says Potter. "From entering confined spaces to specific manual handling of equipment. We also carry out COSHH (control of substances hazardous to health) assessments, as we use a lot of chemicals that give off fumes and gases. We have to assess the need for measures to be put in place to protect the person's health, not just their safety.
"It's not the safety department, it's the health and safety department. This is something that is often overlooked, especially in this part of the world where safety is not high on the agenda for a lot of companies in the first place."
Once the assessment has been carried out, the outcome is cascaded down the line to all employees. Further courses and updates are carried out to ensure everyone is up to date with all the relevant information.
Health and safety at Dubai Dry Docks mainly adheres to British Standards, which is apparent by the awarded Five Star Health & Safety Management System Audit. The audit is split into five sections: safety organisation, management control systems, emergency control systems, management of accident/incident/near miss/damage reporting and workplace implementation.
According to the British Safety Council, "the international quality-assured rating system evaluates an organisation's health, safety and performance. A structured audit system provides a safety plan for continuous improvement towards best practice".
Beat the heat
As the summer months begin to hot up, employers need to ensure their employees have the knowledge they need to deal with the Middle East's humid climate. A combination of education, information, instruction and training is used and the onsite nurse also has a training session on how to deal with heat.
Potter explains that the Dry Docks have been preparing for heat training since the beginning if the year. "In January, a programme was put together looking forward to the summer months.
"To help us, we analyse statistics from the previous year. For example, in 2005 there was a 70% reduction on heat related incidents from the 2004 figures and then 2006 gave us a further 50% reduction on the previous year and this year we're looking at reducing it by another 20%," he claims.
There are a number of ‘cool rooms' designed to help workers suffering from the heat to cool down and recover.
"We did a huge study on heat in the workplace and one of the recommendations made was to chill the areas where the guys are working. So we have chiller units on site."
These are just a few of the initiatives actively practised by the company, along with a water distribution technician who goes round all the areas checking that everyone has water. Supervisors are advised to tell their employees to drink between seven and 10 litres of water a day, including a litre of Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) solution.
The health and safety department works closely with the facilities management team to make sure every angle is covered.Communication between other departments and the facilities management team is vital if businesses are to run smoothly and effectively.
Potter says he meets and discusses health and safety issues with the FM team on a daily basis. If an accident does happen, the Docks has two ambulances and a fully-fledged medical team on standby. The nurses and doctors are on call 24 hours a day. There is also a highly qualified fire fighting team.
An unannounced fire drill takes place once a month on the vessels. "All our fire departments have trained fire fighters, they have to have at least two years service in the civil defence in their own country to become a fire fighter on site here."
An employee’s health is just as important as their safety.
But Potter's determination to educate people about health and safety doesn't stop at the Docks. He is also the vice president of IOSH (Institute of Occupational Safety and Health), an international organisation that "sets professional standards, supports and develops members and provides authoritative advice and guidance on health and safety issues."
His IOSH chartered membership means he is bound to attend events and courses that will earn him CPD (continuing professional development) points. This in turn allows Potter to keep the Dry Docks updated with the latest in health and safety.