Feature / 28 Apr 2023

Never-ending Story

The continuing quest to persuade humans to be safe

Formal studies identify three core reasons for practicing workplace safety:

  1. Moral – It’s the right thing to do.
  2. Legal – It’s the lawful thing to do.
  3. Financial – It’s cheaper to be safe than to pay for an accident, work related illness, production delays and lost production.

However, convincing a workforce to take Health, Safety, Security & Environment (HSSE) seriously is a long process. People are driven by evolution to downplay risks ("It won’t happen to me!”) or actively take them (“It’ll be fun!”).

When Constantin Draghici joined GAC as Group HSSE Manager in 2011, his first efforts were often met with queries. GAC managers felt they were already doing enough about safety. Was there a need for more?

Constantin Draghici picture

The instant trigger
12 years later, it’s a different story. It remains an unfinished story but is still one of significant progress.

“The thing about safety awareness is that it gets triggered in an instant,” says Constantin. “You go from not caring, not noticing, not bothering, to suddenly seeing your environment and your actions in a clearer light. It’s a mind reset, and it happens fast. I wish it happened faster.”

Indeed, moving people towards their trigger point is slow.

“In the beginning, HSSE managers are the ones pointing out risks and shortcomings and not the most welcomed people in the lunchroom. But I can say that persistence wins out in the end.”

And structure…
Persistence, patience and a good structure: these three elements have transformed HSSE awareness in GAC.

“It’s starts with the newcomers,” says Constantin. “Our Corporate Academy’s onboarding course begins the messaging and provides a base to build on for HSSE managers in the local companies. And along with raising awareness, you need a decent tool set so that people who identify risks and shortfalls can do something about it. Get it fixed. It took us several years to get all the pieces aligned, but we now have a Group where everyone knows what’s expected, and they have the tools to do something when they identify hazards or shortfalls.”

Today, when GAC bids for business, potential customers want to know a lot about its HSSE policies and practices. The trend started decades ago when major corporations began their own HSSE awareness and action programmes. This created momentum, which suppliers and service providers like GAC could leverage to bring their own people along for the ride.

“This has been a critical element,” says Constantin, “because it has tied our HSSE awareness and practices directly to customer needs and business success.

“Customers want to know that our standards are a match for theirs where HSSE is concerned. There is now a clear revenue reason for maintaining our HSSE standards.”

For Constantin Draghici, the most pleasing part of GAC’s HSSE journey has been watching the numbers grow.

“There was a point, a few years ago, when we started to see a rise in reporting. People were beginning to notice HSSE risks around them and act.

“The really impressive part is the rise in reports that identify hazards before they cause a problem, as opposed to post-event reports. Our people now have greater awareness and are using it to make their workplaces safer. All of us are more proactive than reactive these days.”

Constant vigilance
The challenge now is to keep the momentum up. Having achieved baseline HSSE awareness in the GAC workforce through courses, drills, newsletters, watercooler chats, and countless presentations, Constantin now faces the challenge of turning learned awareness into everyday competence.

GAC Project Logistics MEA18

“It’s a discipline that should become as commonplace as brushing your teeth,” he says. “It’s both an attitude and a practice and the challenge is to get them to be top of mind wherever colleagues find themselves.

“The aim is to make HSSE part of who we are, not just something we do. I look forward to a day when we don’t have to prioritise HSSE because we’ve made it part of our DNA - so we remain HSSE-aware even when nobody’s watching.”

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