Health and safety has somewhat of an image problem. It’s often associated with rules and regulations, with audits and assessments, with policies and procedures. These are all, of course, an important part of the picture. But at its heart, health and safety is about protecting people. It’s about care and attention – looking after yourself and your colleagues.

So who better to lead on this than workers themselves? This is exactly what’s been happening since 2010 at ArcelorMittal sites around the world – and with great results.

A close eye on safety
Turn the clock back seven or eight years ago. The management at some of our sites in the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania were struggling to put – and keep – effective safety procedures in place. So, we decide to approach things from a different direction – from the ground up. At sites in Eastern Europe and in South America, we began training carefully selected employees to recognise and encourage good safety procedures. These safety stewards were given special shirts, badges and a name (often Guardian Angels, or Red Scorpions for special projects). They were the start of a global programme of employee-led reinforcement of solid safety procedures.

The safety stewards on our sites check that operations are performed safely and that risks are kept to a minimum. They encourage best practice among their peers and help others become more aware of potential risks. This role is in addition to people’s normal duties. It’s a model that works – and it’s spread to ArcelorMittal sites around the world, winning awards and helping us move closer to our Journey to Zero ambitions for reducing accidents and fatalities.

A safety mindset
Much of the success of the Safety Steward programme rests on its approach: a change in attitudes which leads to a change in behaviour. It helps to create a site culture where employees take responsibility for their own health and safety. The approach helps managers to see good health and safety as about more than just regulation – as about efficient business practices and better employee morale. It’s based on the principle that bottom-up prevention is better than top-down correction – and helps managers see breaches as insights for improvement, rather than simply as reasons for punishment.

To help encourage this shift in perspective, we’ve also introduced a cross-site audit programme where health and safety specialists from one country visit another to run peer audits. This doesn’t just encourage self-management, it helps us to share expertise across our sites around the world in a supportive, cost-effective way. And we’re developing this approach by training safety stewards in key areas – such as working at heights – to supervise certain project activities on other sites where needed.

Our safety steward programmes around the world are helping us to establish safe, healthy, quality working lives – not just for our people, but through our people.

"Our Guardian Angel program is helping everyone here – individuals and teams – become better at spotting and minimising risks in our daily activities. It’s helping us develop a culture where health and safety is front of mind – and, most importantly, move to zero accidents at our site.” Juliano Dalla Rosa, Occupational Health and Safety Manager, ArcelorMittal Mining, Serra Azul Brazil