DISCOVER Magazine #7

Safety standards that go beyond the regulations

Published in category: People

In 2013, Damen held its first official ‘Safety Week’ at its headquarters. Laure Jacquier QHSE Team Leader explains: “This was for everyone at Damen HQ, from the work floor to top management. It concerns the safety of our people, the environment and our products.”

“Importantly, at Damen we want to go above and beyond complying with the law and regulations, we want to anticipate developments and make sure we are ready to address them.” Last year’s special focus topic was ‘Health and Safety awareness as part of the Damen culture’. When the Safety Week took place this year the safety topic will be addressed by all our clusters as the company broadens the initiative, she says. The Safety Week also went back to basics to underline the importance of safety measures, Laure adds. “For instance, we explained why we ask people to wear a helmet and walk along the special green safety paths. This showed that there is always a good reason – it is not just for the sake of it.”

Laure stresses that Damen wants to highlight the risks but it is all done in a very positive environment.

It is about awareness not chastising people for doing something wrong. We also want to hear from people about how we can improve and welcome their input

A good example of Damen’s focus on safety is highlighted by the work of Damen Shiprepair Brest, where a broad range of health and safety initiatives have been introduced as part of the shipyard’s continuing efforts to improve safety levels.

Jos Goris, Managing Director of Damen Shiprepair Brest, says: “In effect our safety standards are being pushed up continuously by our clients which are very often the energy majors. We are audited annually by our customers but while some companies may find audits slightly irritating, we actually welcome them. The energy companies bring a ‘fresh pair of eyes and an awful lot of knowledge’ to our yard and help us improve.”

“Our safety programme is absolutely ‘business critical’, we are working for the energy majors and have to have a very good safety system.”

The drive to increase safety standards is apparent throughout the French yard. Damen Shiprepair Brest, which was acquired by Damen Shipyards in 2012, has already introduced a comprehensive work permit and hot work permit system, which is managed by its Safety Coordination Team onboard vessels.

When going to the yard, visitors are given a questionnaire and afterwards a sticker to show that they have passed the training

Strict work permit system

Everything is done according to book, he stresses, with a work permit and risk assessment for every job, whether big or small. And yet Damen Shiprepair Brest is still very competitive with a good throughput of vessels, Jos points out. “These measures do not mean that work on our client’s vessel is hindered.

“We have a mobile office or ‘safety coordination bungalow’ on the vessel and it manages all the permits, in turn controlling the work flow and making sure that one job doesn’t overlap the other. This dedicated team works directly with the ship staff or ship safety officer every day.”

Lifting regime

The shipyard has a very strict regime concerning lifting equipment. Shackles, chains, blocks, ropes and slings are kept in a central location and all have been tested and labelled. “Everything is in the right position, in the right department. We aim to minimize the use of untested equipment. In fact, during a recent audit by an oil major, it could not find any equipment that was untested.”

Dedicated people are assigned to lifting supervision and only they are allowed to supervise. “It sounds simple, but they have a sticker on their helmet which the crane driver can see from above. He won’t start work unless he sees the right person.”

The yard also has a Lifting Plan in place for anything above 10 tonnes, a tandem lift or a more complicated manoeuvre.

Safety Induction training

Everyone – and Jos means everyone – gets Safety Induction training before they enter the yard. “When going to the yard visitors are given a questionnaire and they are then given a sticker to show that they have passed the training.”

Strict safety measures are in place for entering confined spaces. Again, the yard has a dedicated office controlling who is going into which tank, along with providing information on the condition, atmosphere and lighting in the tanks.


Working in confined spaces

Each person has their own badge that is put on a magnetic board outside the tank so it is easy to see where people are and they are equipped with a radio, dead man alarm and O2 monitor. “The office is in direct communication with people inside the tanks, which is vital when considering that many of these vessels have 50-60 tanks and they maybe 20 m deep in the vessel.”

In the next few years, Jos and his team are aiming to change the safety culture of the employees and subcontractors, taking it up ‘to the next level’. “We want our people to understand the reasons behind these measures, not just follow the rules. It is everyone’s personal responsibility to make sure they work safely, regardless of the rules.”

We want our people to understand the reasons behind these measures

Changing the safety culture

The shipyard is encouraging all of its subcontractors to take part in the safety initiatives. “We will provide our subcontractors with safety training and then they can pass it on to their employees.” Failure to give this training will ultimately mean that subcontractors do not qualify for tendering at the yard. “We want certain safety standards amongst our subcontractors and we want a level playing field for them. And because we are auditing them, we are sharpening their standards as well as our own.”

The programme is being rolled out this year with a number of workshops in which everyone will be involved, focusing on subjects like lifting operations, hot work, working at heights, housekeeping standards, communicating safety targets and personal protective equipment. Client representatives and third-party experts will help provide specialist information at the workshops.

Efforts certainly appear to be paying off. Jos adds that a recent 25-day repair project from one of the world’s leading oil companies, involving six QHSE staff and two technical superintendents, made only three minor observations, all of which have now been rectified.

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