Tako de Veth, (D&II) project manager for Area Middle East, on differences in culture and understanding of safety:
“I’ve worked with subcontractors in different countries, but I found one of the greatest challenges in South Korea because I came up against a number of things that were incomprehensible to me. For example the water boundary: safety on land was reasonably well developed, but on the water everything fell away."
"We saw a ‘wild west’ situation on every local boat or A-frame: zero requirements, zero rules. On land a crane has to be certified, but not on the water. But what I found the hardest to understand was that the people don’t see the danger. If we hear a loud noise during a task, we automatically start back, but the South Koreans don’t, they just keep working. This was our greatest concern.”
What did you do about those concerns?
“Two things: we implemented as many checks in the operation as possible, and at the same time we trained people for safety awareness. We put experienced Dutch employees at all the important positions. They were given instructions to pay close attention to safety and to respond immediately if anything happened. Our Dutch sandfill masters held a ‘time out for safety’ many times. As an extra check moment, we introduced JHAs for the simplest tasks. We also put a lot of time and effort into training: teaching people what the dangers are and most of all why, and how they need to act. We showed videos and constantly repeated that they should not stand in the ‘line of fire’. It took a very long time before all this started to sink in. Our people came to me: ‘I’ve already explained it ten times, but it’s been done wrong again.’ ‘Then we just have to explain it one more time,’ I would say. It was frustrating, but that’s just the way it is: we are responsible for their safety.”
“EXPLAINING EVERYTHING TEN TIMES WAS FRUSTRATING, BUT THAT’S JUST THE WAY IT IS: WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR SAFETY.”
Are you satisfied with the result?
“Ultimately I was, yes. One of the successes was a competition we introduced to activate people: whoever addressed others about their behaviour or signalled a hazard the most received a prize and a certificate. This caught on, and was also adopted by the client (Daewoo). All in all, the result was that we ran a safe project: no accidents occurred due to thoughtlessness. So our patience paid off!”