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A new safety management strategy paid off with zero lost time due to injury at Saldanha in South Africa

Saldanha's scorpions

Safety at our steel plant in Saldanha, South Africa, is a top priority thanks to the Red Scorpions, a team of employees who are responsible for safety vigilance at the site

Making improvements and repairs to a steel plant is a tough job, with many potential dangers for the staff and contractors involved.

Our steel plant in Saldanha, South Africa, set a high safety benchmark by completing the relining of a Corex and Midrex installation – with no time lost due to injury – or production time out due to workplace accidents.

“We have proven to ourselves and our colleagues around the world that zero lost-time injuries can be achieved. If you believe it, you will see it.”

Heinrich Kriel, general manager, ArcelorMittal South Africa

On average, it takes 146 days to reline a furnace and all production must be suspended during the process. The team at Saldanha finished relining two blast furnaces, Corex and Midrex, 100 metres and 70 metres high respectively, in only 76 days – half the average time taken.

Around 1800-2500 workers were on site at any time, and there were two 12-hour work shifts every day. The large number of workers, most of whom were contractors, and the tough working conditions significantly increased the likelihood of accidents.

Greater vigilance

In recognition of this, the team put as much emphasis on planning safety vigilance as the relining project itself. A different approach to safety was taken by creating a team of employees who were responsible for ensuring that safety standards were always followed. Equipped with red protective gear, these safety advocates were dubbed the ‘Red Scorpions’ and they were trained in all aspects of safety vigilance.

The Red Scorpions conducted safety audits of tools and equipment, ensured workers were never without personal protective gear, advised contractors on safety issues and carried out tests to detect any alcohol or substance abuse before every work shift.

The goal of no lost time injury is a tough one and it was crucial that our workers and the contractors believed they could achieve that. To this end, an engagement campaign with the theme ‘If you believe it, you will see it’ was launched. Regular communication also formed a key part of the approach. Through daily feedback meetings and weekly bulletins, workers were updated on the project’s safety performance. For every week without lost-time injury and on-the-spot safety actions, workers’ efforts were recognised with small rewards.

These safety measures also benefited local communities, as the team’s strict approach to alcohol and substance abuse was adopted by its contractors and also had a positive effect on local communities’ health and wellbeing.

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