The Zika virus outbreak caught the world’s attention when it was declared a global public health emergency by the World Health Organization in February 2016. Measures were already in place at ArcelorMittal Brazil to raise awareness and tackle the spread of Zika, but we knew that only a concerted effort would help protect our employees from a virus which remains relatively unknown.
At ArcelorMittal, we have seen at first hand the value of cross-sector collaboration to solve complex challenges. We pioneered the Ebola Private Sector Mobilisation Group (EPSMG) which included 100 companies, public bodies and NGOs from a wide range of sectors, and was widely recognised for its role in helping West Africa tackle the Ebola outbreak.
We used the same collaborative approach to Zika, knowing that working with municipal authorities, state government, and our own employees would be the most effective way to tackle the virus.
With 15,000 ArcelorMittal employees in Brazil, each with an average of two dependents, we launched a series of educational initiatives to help protect our staff and their families from Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya – diseases transmitted by mosquitoes.
To reinforce measures taken independently by the company – such as regular pesticide spraying and the addition of chlorine to residual water – we partnered with external environmental health teams and municipal government to perform regular risk assessments at our sites and exchange knowledge.
All our sites in at-risk areas were provided with Ministry of Health advice on how employees and contractors can protect themselves and their families via pamphlets, posters and TV screens.
A 45-day inspection of our premises by the Serra Zoonosis Control Centre and CIPA, Brazil’s internal commission for the prevention of accidents, found a low risk of a mosquito infestation developing on any of our sites, and to date there have been no reported Zika cases among our employees and their relatives.
But as the virus spreads, tackling this challenge will require even greater efforts and vigilance. As stronger links between birth defects and pregnant women infected with the Zika virus emerged, for example, we launched a new initiative to provide monitoring for all pregnant women at our long carbon sites and our facilities at Tubarão, aiming to help women protect themselves from the virus during pregnancy.
We know the importance of collaboration: our health teams continue to work with regional and national stakeholders, including the municipal government and the municipal health secretariat, to build on our existing initiatives and find new ways to protect our people and the community against the virus.