Fanning the flames

first_imgWith four separate investigations under way after the explosion at the Corusfacility in Port Talbot last year, could pressure to cut costs haveinadvertently compromised health and safety at the plant? Nick Paton reportsWhen furnace number five at the Corus steel plant in Port Talbot expl-odedon 8 November 2001, eye- witnesses spoke of flames shooting hundreds of feetinto the air. Others recounted feeling the heat from the blast on their faces,while workers told on-scene reporters of other fires that had to beextinguished and the black smoke that billowed around the site. “We are so used to seeing the flames and the smoke, but this wastotally different – it was just a mass of flames in- between the houses,”a nurse living near the plant told the BBC. The explosion killed three workmen and injured 15, five of them critically.It is expected to be some months yet before it is clear what caused theaccident. But the explosion is a tragedy for the families of the workers, thetown – which is reliant on the industry – and also for Corus, formerly known asBritish Steel before its merger with Dutch rival Koninklijke Hoogovens. Despite a number of high-profile setbacks – notably the explosion in 2000 atits Llanwern plant that left a worker with a fractured spine and led to arecord £300,000 fine in November – Corus generally has a good safety record inan industry that has to deal with many risk factors in the workplace. Corus hasdescribed the Port Talbot accident as “unprecedented”. The only other accident remotely like it happened in Lake Michigan, Chicago,nearly 40 years ago, when five workers died and 19 were injured. Since the Port Talbot explosion, four investigations have started. The leadinvestigation is being carried out by the South Wales Police, with the Healthand Safety Executive (HSE), Corus and the main trade union, the Iron and SteelTrades Confederation (ISTC), carrying out their own investigations. It is still too early to say with any certainty what was behind the blast infurnace number five. What is clear, however, is that just before the explosion,staff were working to control the temperature within the furnace, as what Corusdescribes as “an abnormality in the operating temperature” had beennoticed. This would have involved using water to quench some of the heatinside. Other operations were carrying on as usual, with workers drilling throughthe clay plug at the side of the furnace and tapping the molten materialinside, a procedure that happens many times a day. There was also a team ofcontractors carrying out maintenance work on some of the surrounding pipes.These three factors meant more workers than usual were in the vicinity of thefurnace. Furnace number five weighs about 1,000 tonnes and it is estimated there wasabout 2,000 tonnes of solid material and liquid iron inside it, known asburden. The force of the blast separated the furnace about a third of the wayup, at the point where there is a joint that allows natural expansion andcontraction, creating a gap of a few inches. This allowed a combination of ash,slag, molten iron and ore to pour out. Following the blast, the furnace settledback, closing the gap, but landing slightly off-centre on its hearth. The furnace floor is enclosed on three sides by steel sheeting. This wasbadly damaged, with a hole blown through one side, as was some of the pipework.Of the three workers who died, Steven Galsworthy, 25, and Andrew Hutin, 20,were killed at the scene, while colleague Len Radford, 53, died later inhospital. The furnace will, inevitably, be at the centre of the health and safetyinvestigations. But investigators have had to wait weeks for it to cool down toa point where it is stable and fully accessible. A controlled operation to coolthe furnace began at the end of November and was only completed recently. Investigators are now raking out the contents of the furnace and want to getinside to take a closer look at what went wrong. A remote-controlled camerawill initially be sent inside to assess the damage followed by, if it is safe,the investigators themselves. “The examination of the scene will take quite a while. It will takemonths rather than weeks,” says Mike Cosman, the HSE’s head of operationsfor Wales and the West. Computer manual records, maintenance logs and otherdocumentary evidence will be closely investigated and key workers interviewed,he adds. Issues such as what workplace precautions were in place and what safetymanagement systems there were will be examined. The adequacy of resourcing willalso come under the spotlight. In 2001, Corus cut 6,000 jobs in England andWales and reported half-year pre-tax losses of £230m in September. The ISTC hasraised concerns that, among the job losses, Corus has got rid of many healthand safety representatives. “It has lost a lot of people with a lot of experience who have beenwell trained in health and safety issues,” says Robert Sneddon, researchofficer for health and safety at the ISTC. The company also has a culture of long hours and, while directors mayemphasise health and safety, the message does not always filter down toregional and local manager level, he argues. Another issue of concern to the union is the drift towards multi-skillingamong workers, with fears that employees are not being trained adequately tocope with the extra responsibilities. The union complains its safetyrepresentatives are not involved enough in helping to implement companyinitiatives. But the HSE’s Cosman is careful to steer clear of suggestions that the tougheconomic environment faced by the company could have been a contributoryfactor. Demanning does not, in itself, make a plant less safe, he says.Sometimes it means maintenance becomes a higher priority. “The danger inthese circumstances is there are plenty of people who will try to jump on thebandwagon. This will be a properly analysed investigation based on data notgossip and innuendo,” he says. And Jack MacLachlan, manufacturing director for Corus Strip Products UK,stresses health and safety is, and has always been, the number one priority atthe plant. “Our target is to have zero accidents,” he says.”Safety is not compromised in any way at all in relation to the economicconditions. We have made that very clear.” The furnace, built in 1959, was not old in terms of the industry and hadbeen subject to an ongoing 12-month safety review. It was relined in 1989, headds. One of the key health and safety thrusts at the plant has been to integrateprotocols into day-to-day processes, to make them second nature, argues healthand safety manager Steven Pearce. He and his colleagues have been working toimprove behavioural aspects, giving individuals more responsibility for whatthey do, engaging chemicals giant DuPont as an adviser on this issue. The working environment, the competence of workers and the behaviour andculture of employees are the three key health and safety factors that need tobe addressed, he adds. In the Welsh Assembly, First Minister Rhodri Morgan is under pressure frommembers worried about the company’s safety record. Just days after the blast,Morgan was forced to reassure the assembly that no abnormal maintenance workhad been carried out on the furnace before the explosion. He said there had been no molten metal break-outs at the plant since 1994and the furnace had been regularly checked. This did not stop mutterings amongsome assembly members that the safety of the furnace had been a ‘talking point’among workers for weeks before the blast – something the company denies. According to MacLachlan, the company has bent over backwards to assuagethese concerns, bringing assembly members to the plant and explaining, as faras they can, what happened and what they are now doing. “Their concerns have been dealt with,” he insists. Nevertheless, some local MPs remain unconvinced. Earlier this year,Conservative MP Alun Cairns urged workers and their families, who had concernsabout safety at the plant, to come forward and voice them. While the four investigations are primarily looking at health and safetyissues, getting the plant back to full operational capacity will also throw upsome other health issues, suggests the HSE’s Cosman. Dangers from heat and dustinhalation and possibly exposure to asbestos as a result of the clean-upoperation must be considered, as must musculo-skeletal injuries associated withmaking heavy items safe. The HR effort has largely been focused on two areas, counselling forworkers, their families and those who have been injured or bereaved and keepingemployees informed about what is going on. In the immediate aftermath of the explosion, the company appointed employeesto act as go-betweens between the company and the bereaved families and theworkers in hospital, helping with issues such as accommodation and finances andoffering support. This has now been extended to others exposed to the incident.Counsellors have also been working with individual workers and groups ofemployees. The company, for instance, stopped work at the adjoining furnace when thefunerals of the three men took place. “The blast furnace community is aclose one,” says MacLachlan. Beyond this, however, the company declines to comment on what HR processeswere put in place to deal with an explosion such as this and its aftermath,arguing it is better to wait for the outcome of the investigations. But a spokesman confirms its HR approach has been “multi-faceted”.Any lessons or recommendations that come out of the investigations into theevents at Corus will not only be applied to Corus, but to the industry as awhole, adds McLachlan. “That is imperative.” For the ISTC, the key lesson to learn is the need to get away from a”them and us” approach to health and safety. “Both the company and the unions have to work at health and safety. Ithas to be everyone’s business,” says Sneddon. “The traditionalculture in the company has always been one of ‘it will never happen to me’.This needs to change dramatically,” he adds. One sign of the company’s confidence that it can put the terrible events of8 November behind it, was the announcement last month that it intends todemolish and rebuild the severely damaged furnace. It is expected it will comeback on stream in January 2003. Despite its misgivings over Corus’ attitudes towards safety, the ISTC haswelcomed the announcement. “It is good news, we welcome it,” says aspokesman. “While nothing is going to take away the cloud that has affected thewhole community since the accident, there is some speculation – which we don’tbelieve – that the future of the plant was at risk because of this accident.Corus has shown it is prepared to safeguard the future of the plant,” hesays. The Port Talbot plant employs 3,000 people out of a community of 51,400. Itdominates the town. Whether they like it or not and whatever the dangers, thepeople of Port Talbot need the plant as the town’s only other main industriesare chemicals and oil-processing. The tight-knit Welsh community will no doubt be relieved their jobs havebeen secured for the foreseeable future. But they will also want to know,before blast furnace number five reopens for business, that the lessons thatcontributed to the disaster last year have been well and truly learned. Safety historyCompared to just 20 years ago, healthand safety in the steel industry has improved dramatically. According to theISTC’s Sneddon, who worked at the Ravenscraig steelworks in the early 1980s,the majority of plants today are much safer places in which to work.The union’s figures point to safety having improveddramatically across the industry in the past four years, with accident claimsnearly halving, from 13 per 1,000 members to between 7.4 and 7.5 per 1,000members. Fanning the flamesOn 12 Feb 2002 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed. last_img read more

Croatia awarded in China as the most desirable new tourist destination

first_imgAccording to the decision of the readers of the Chinese edition of Travel + Leisure magazine, Croatia was awarded in the category of the most desirable new European destination for Chinese tourists in 2018.Award ceremony China Travel Awards – World Best Awards was held in Shanghai, in the presence of diplomatic representatives, representatives of tourist boards, hotels, tour operators and airlines, each in their own category awarded by this famous magazine read by more than a million people in China.She has received the award, which has been awarded for 12 years Pearl Fabrio Counselor at the Embassy of the Republic of Croatia in the People’s Republic of China. The competition for the most desirable new destination was organized during the second half of last year, and readers chose a new destination that they intend to visit as soon as possible. In addition to Croatia, which was selected in the category of European destinations, the awards were also won by Argentina, Tahiti and Myanmar, while the best “old” destinations were Australia, Japan and Thailand.The director of the CNTB Head Office, Kristjan Staničić, also commented on the award, emphasizing that this is the first award of this type that Croatia has received on the Chinese market.  “We are extremely pleased with the award, especially in the year that has been declared the EU-China tourist year. The award also confirms the excellent potential of Croatia as a tourist destination in the large and extremely important Chinese market. This is a confirmation of our assessments and decisions to strengthen Croatia’s presence in China through the implementation of additional promotional activities, but also through the opening of the CNTB office in Shanghai. We are encouraged by the results from last year, during which we achieved high double-digit increases in tourist traffic from the Chinese market, 57 percent in arrivals and 48 percent in overnight stays. “, he said director Staničić, adding that Croatia is ready for a larger arrival of Chinese tourists who are not exclusively motivated by coming to Croatia because of the sun and the sea, but especially appreciate our natural beauty and historical and cultural heritage.Chinese Travel + Leisure is part of the American Travel + Leisure magazine owned by Time Inc. groups. According to the magazine’s director Diggle Tian as many as 70 percent of Chinese tourists who will travel abroad this year still do not know exactly which destination to choose for their trip.last_img read more

COVID-19 now a real threat to year-end polls

first_imgEpidemiologist Tri Yunis Miko Wahyono said such a lack of discipline in social distancing during elections would definitely increase the risk of COVID-19 transmissions in the country, attributing it to the failure of the KPU to impose stricter sanctions on offenders.He warned that the transmissions would further escalate if people kept neglecting protocols in the coming campaign season, which will run from Sep. 26 to Dec. 5.“Therefore, the sanctions must be firm. If they repeatedly violate the rules, the KPU should drop their candidacy,” Tri said on Tuesday.Read also: ‘We should not stop being democratic’: Govt insists on holding regional races in December Democracy and public health are under threat as the 2020 simultaneous regional elections in 270 regions across Indonesia may emerge as new sources of COVID-19 infections in the country, experts and lawmaker have warned.The Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) has found that 243 prospective candidates ignored health protocols when they brought along large entourages to register their candidacies with the local offices of the General Elections Commission (KPU) from Sept. 4 to Sept. 6.These prospective candidates and their supporters violated a KPU regulation that prohibits mass-gatherings during all stages of the elections, from the preparations starting from June 15 to the final vote count a week after the Dec. 9 polling day. The regulation says the KPU can only issue a warning to the candidates and campaign teams. Netty Prasetiyani of House of Representatives’ Commission IX overseeing health said stricter sanctions were key to preventing transmissions during elections and that all candidates should educate their supporters better about COVID-19 prevention.”The KPU announcement [of eligible candidates on Sept. 23] and campaign events should be carried out virtually. Prospective leaders must prioritize their people’s health,” she said.The government and the House insisted in late May on holding the elections on Dec. 9 despite the health risks. The KPU has since found itself under pressure to draft special health measures.Read also: So much work, so little time: KPU under pressure over regional pollsExperts and activists have repeatedly urged authorities to postpone the elections, as the COVID-19 outbreak in the country could continue late into the year, but so far to no avail.They say the elections, to choose 270 regional leaders comprising nine governors, 224 regents and 37 mayors, will put voters and election organizers at risk of contracting the disease. They have also expressed concern about low voter turnout should the outbreak in the country show no signs of abating, thus discouraging people from showing up at polling stations and eventually undermining democracy.Now, with three months to go to polling day, the KPU has found that 46 out of 734 prospective candidates have tested positive for COVID-19. Several hopefuls have died of the disease even before placing their bids.KPU commissioner Hasyim Asy’ari told The Jakarta Post the commission would continue verifying the 46 names online rather than in person.If they pass the verification, they are still eligible to run in the elections despite having the disease. However, they will not be allowed to hold campaigns as they will be required to focus on their recovery, according to the KPU.Political parties endorsing candidates who have died of COVID-19 after registering with the KPU can replace them with new names by providing death certificates of the former candidates, Hasyim said.A Democratic Party-backed regent candidate in Karo regency, North Sumatra, Kena Ukur Karo Jambi Surbakti, 74, died from COVID-19 on the last day of registration for regional elections on Sunday. The party later replaced him with his daughter after the supporting parties, the Golkar Party and the National Mandate Party, agreed to the substitution.But Fadli Ramadhanil of the Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem) recommended that the government, the KPU and the House postpone the remaining election stages, including the campaign period.“In a critical situation like this, they should consider whether these election stages should continue or not,” he said.Read also: Majority of public wants regional elections delayed: SurveysPresident Joko “Jokowi” Widodo was quick to comment on the issue, saying that the elections could not be postponed because the government could not predict when the outbreak would end.Jokowi, whose eldest son Gibran Rakabuming Raka and son-in-law Bobby Afif Nasution are running in the Surakarta, Central Java, and Medan, North Sumatra, mayoral races, respectively, doubled down on his message for election organizers to enforce strict health protocols in the lead-up to and on voting day.“The safety and health of the public is everything, so enforcing health protocols is non-negotiable,” Jokowi said.KPU head Arief Budiman said the commission was set to apply stricter health protocols for the coming campaign period, the conditions of which have been laid out in the prevailing regulation.The commission will allow only 100 participants during face-to-face campaign rallies, which will be limited to one session for each mayoral and regency candidate and two sessions for each gubernatorial candidate.Above all, the commission is urging candidates to refrain from hosting campaign rallies in person and instead turn to online platforms.Bawaslu head Abhan said the agency was now considering reporting those candidates in the future who neglect health protocols to the police. “We are exploring numerous possibilities. One option is to use criminal offenses under the Criminal Code or the Health Quarantine Law.”Topics :last_img read more