Safety programmes and no legal compliance
With all the negativity surrounding the effect of South African power utilities on the environment, it was refreshing for MICHAEL BRANDT to encounter a utility company that has successfully consolidated its services and reached global benchmarks in health and safety controls.
The tour guide on this safety journey was Jawadi Waleed Hussein, an electrical engineer, who is an internationally accredited safety engineer. He also has 18 years of experience as a specialist in the field of safety and loss prevention, and is currently the division manager for safety and environment prevention in the Western Region of the Saudi Electricity Company.
Prior to 2002, power to the Saudi Kingdom was supplied by ten companies. These were merged into four regional suppliers. Then a major turnaround occurred and these companies were merged to form the Saudi Electricity Company to provide all services; a new CEO was appointed; and a change-management programme explored various avenues of improvement towards a world-class utility.
The company boasts 32 000 employees, 87 percent of whom are Saudi nationals. It provides services to 7,6-million customers at a 99,99 percent availability level.
Its annual growth of seven percent – with 550 000 new customers each year – is the highest in the world. It operates 42 power plants and has 12 new plants under construction, with a potential output of 70 000 MW.
“A ‘core business plan’ was developed focusing on two main areas: a safety, health and environment system implementation, and enterprise risk management and compliance,” explains Hussein.
“Basically, a five-star system was implemented to move from a no-rating status to a five-star rating in five years. This was to be management led. Risk based and continuous improvement would be motivated and monitored through frequent audits,” he says. This represented a complete turnaround in corporate thinking and operation in order to reach international standards.
The CEO and senior vice presidents approved a policy statement – which makes risk-based occupational safety and health management a core value that drives performance, and holds managers accountable for implementation. It also includes an element of cost reduction.
“The executive committee visited sites for first-hand experience and five-star workshops were implemented for 630 managers, 1 150 supervisors, 87 safety and fire engineers, and 3 150 safety representatives. This was the first training programme to be held in 20 years,” says Hussein.
It did not end there. The next step included: a series of five-star audits that involved 73 auditors in 80 hours of training; an audit protocol (including 300 questions); more than 135 auditable units; and 271 audit days representing 6 506 hours.
The five-star programme involved 356 safety committees in 4 600 meetings, 16 300 near-miss reports, 21 000 inspections and 58 000 observations.
The benefits of this implementation included: a 33-percent reduction in motor vehicle accidents; a drop of 16 percent in fatal accidents; and a 26-percent reduction in disabling injuries. .
A total of 457 safety people have qualified between 2009 and 2015. Says Hussein: “Promoting a safety culture is like climbing a ladder; you take one step at a time.”