By Thomas Broedel, Dwayne Dugas, Darylene Harris, and Kenny Limmer on Jun 8, 2020
This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented safety challenges and conditions for the industry to continue doing business as usual. Safety is a core value in Shell, and ensuring the health and safety of our staff, contractors, and partners has never been more important. Held annually, Shell’s Safety Day 2020 will take place on June 10th, bringing all staff together to have conversations around safety.
To gain insight into safety practices adopted this year and the ongoing adjustments in operations to ensure reliability for customers, Shell Catalysts & Technologies spoke with HSSE Advisor Thomas Broedel (based in Leuna, Germany) and HSSE Manager Dwayne Dugas (based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana), as well as two general managers, Darylene Harris (based in Port Allen, Louisiana) and Kenny Limmer (based in Michigan City, Indiana).
What is key to creating a culture of safety?
Darylene Harris: Building relationships and caring for people. We are holding daily “coffee chats” with employees on and off-site to maintain relationships and keep everyone informed on key issues. We’ve also created “Why I Work Safe” cards for everyone, and “Why We’re Social Distancing” banners at the Port Allen and PIMZ sites.
Our organisation, from manufacturing to our operations staff at home, has been incredibly supportive and flexible, knowing that everyone has a unique “new normal.” We’ve been working as a team to ensure there is coverage.
Thomas Broedel: The key is open communication between both management and employees with a clear setting of targets. At the Leuna site, safety is the first part of every meeting. Employees must feel that their experiences are asked for and appreciated. Management in the field must demonstrate how safety is the number one priority by stopping unsafe or uncomfortable work, even when this means loss of money or time.
Dwayne Dugas: The health, safety, and well-being of staff and contractors have always been our top priority. It’s important to stay resilient in times of crisis and show care from all levels of the organisation. The knowledge and expertise of our health and safety professionals, along with continued training, education, and the resilience of all the staff is what has allowed us to move forward during the challenges brought on by COVID-19.
What are notable safety measures you’ve implemented since the start of COVID-19?
Dugas: The HSSE staff has provided guidance and recommendations on cleaning and disinfecting of common work areas, high traffic areas, and surfaces for our essential staff. We’ve conducted health screenings, such as implementing a health acknowledgement questionnaire and temperature checks at site entry points. Persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 symptoms were isolated and triaged to the appropriate level of care to minimise continued exposure to other workers.
We also conducted hazard assessments for any close proximity work to determine whether Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) or Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was necessary to promote a safe working environment.
Broedel: There was strong cooperation within the Leuna site to introduce protection measures in an aligned and coordinated way. We decided very early that only employees with critical responsibilities should continue working from the plant. Employees with non-critical jobs had to work from their home office. Cooperation with local physicians increased our confidence in the suitability of our actions, such as increasing cleaning frequency and assessing types of masks.
Kenny Limmer: Another important consideration for us was ensuring that no one came into the Michigan City plant if they were feeling sick. We reduced the number of employees and contractors on site. For essential workers who were needed to maintain plant operations, we implemented social distancing requirements of six feet or greater and required face coverings.
Harris: We also focused on social distancing and limiting the number of people per room, and placing hand sanitiser stations at the entrances of each building on site. In the midst of managing the COVID-19 pandemic, we have had no personnel safety incidents and have continued to deliver quality products to our customers without interruption.
How may the current changes in health and safety protocols impact future operations at your site and for customers?
Broedel: I think we will have to live with these circumstances for a long period of time, and the current safety measures, such as social distancing in control rooms and wearing masks, will become a part of daily working life.
The long-term psychological aspect of this crisis must be regarded as well, as humans are not used to being isolated from each other. Managers must become more sensitive to their employees’ behaviours and to find appropriate countermeasures for stress and frustration.
Limmer: COVID-19 has changed the way we do business in regards to health and safety. I believe that business travel will continue to be highly scrutinised, not only due to cost constraints, but based on a determination on whether meetings can be handled virtually. This fits in with today’s communications trends, where it’s becoming more convenient to communicate digitally.
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Harris: I believe what is most important to future SC&T operations, and therefore our customers, is that the health and safety of our employees and contractors remain our number one priority. When leadership supports clear priorities such as “Safety, Quality, and Delivery,” our employees and contractor partners can make better decisions. We aim to deliver products to our customers while meeting Shell’s Goal Zero ambition to achieve no harm and no leaks across all of our operations.