Well being: Health and safety workers are office superheros

What it takes to be someone who saves people - an employee responsible for health and safety. Ahmed Al Hadidi, from the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, reveals all.

Ahmed El Hadidi, says a health and safety manager's most important aspect is ensuring people are aware of the potential risks they face. Ravindranath K / The National
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They are the superheroes of the workplace, there to protect employees from harm – and they should exist in every UAE company.

According to Ahmed El Hadidi, the regional health and safety manager for Crown Packaging and the chairman of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health’s (Iosh) UAE branch, it is mandatory to have an employee responsible for health and safety. But what do these positions involve?

Mr El Hadidi, whose UAE plant has clocked up more than 1,100 days without a lost time injury (a health and safety indicator measuring absence because of injury) says the roles’ most important aspect is ensuring people are aware of the potential risks they face.

“Yes, as health and safety professionals we need to set the basics, but most importantly we need to give them the opportunity to identify hazards and control the risks they are exposed to, either through training or anything else,” he adds.

According to a December Iosh survey of 250 decisionmakers, nine out of 10 senior managers say the investment decisions they make on health and safety are “business critical” and 85 per cent make it a top priority at board level.

Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA) is one such company.

“Some of the equipment we have is on par with the aviation industry in terms of complexity, so safety is extremely important and if there is the slightest amount of complacency it can really have very [bad] results,” says EGA’s Salman Abdulla, the executive vice president of health, safety, sustainability, environment and quality and a member of the executive committee. “So [health and safety] has been recognised in this industry and in this business for a very long time.”

EGA’s 2016 lost time injury frequency rate (LTIFR) – a measure of lost-time injuries within a certain period relative to the total hours worked – was 0.28 per million man hours, and the total recordable incident frequency rate (TRIFR) was 2.16 per million man hours. By comparison, The International Aluminium Institute, a trade association of which EGA is a member, had a LTIFR of 1.05 and a TRIFR of 3.8 in its 2014 benchmarking exercise.

Mr Abdalla says safety, health and environment “has a very heavy weighting to final performance numbers” at the company’s annual review.

“If we don’t do so well on safety, health and environment, then that is not seen a success story from the board’s perspective,” he adds.

Q&A: Ahmed El Hadidi, the chairman of the Iosh’s UAE branch, tells Gillian Duncan more about the organisation’s work:

How does Iosh help companies?

We speak to all occupational health and safety practitioners. We don’t work for a specific sector. We work for the industry, for the professionals. So we try to support the professionals on education, having the tools and the skills to be able to identify the different hazards and the different issues that they might be seeing. And we try to endorse the industries and the government, if we can, to get a better implementation and practice to what we believe is the correct way to proceed.

Do you think the UAE is moving in the right direction?

Yes, of course. I have been in my profession for more than seven years now. There has been a huge improvement. Health and safety supports and helps companies. It is not just something that hides or puts obstacles [in front of] how they do things. It really helps. And it is not only us as Iosh or at the company Crown that believe in that. The government believes in that and that’s why it is trying as much as possible to make sure they have rules and support to make sure this message is communicated.

Is that at a federal level?

At both, federal and municipality levels. It’s not just with regulations. The interesting part about the UAE government at both federal and municipality level is they are not just enforcing laws. It is trying to help the businesses and the practitioners understand their rights and their obligations.


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