Safety in a Steel Plant – General Aspects


Safety in a Steel Plant – General Aspects

The health, safety and protection of employees, equipment and the environment are of serious concern in a steel plant since steel plant is an industry of hazardous nature.  The health and safety of employees is crucial since it affects both economic and social factors. It is necessary that steel plant management recognizes the advantages of safe work environments and progressively adopt safety management practices to prevent hazardous events, avoid production and manpower losses and fall outs associated with the accidents. Seriously following of safety practices also assists enhancement of employee’s knowledge of operation, results into improvement of technical procedures, maintenance of accurate process safety information and increase in overall plant productivity. A safe work place also contributes towards plants competitiveness as well as in profit growth.

As per Board of Directors of World Steel Association, “Nothing is more important than the safety and health of the people who work in the steel industry”. Following of safety practices results reduction of risk to a level that is as low as is reasonably predictable.

There are three imperatives for adopting safety practices. They are ethical, legal and financial. There is a moral obligation placed on the steel plant management to ensure that the work place and the work activities are safe. There are legal requirements defined for safe working. Safe working also reduces down time, improves workman’s morale and promotes systematic working, resulting into substantial reduction in the cost of production and financial savings.

The nature of various types of accidents is shown by an iceberg of incidents (Fig 1). They are unsafe actions, incidents, minor injuries, lost time injuries, serious accidents and fatalities.

Iceberg of incidents

Fig 1 The iceberg of accidents

Every steel plant should aim at accident. To aim for an accident free working environment in a steel plant is every one’s responsibility. It is possible to reduce dramatically the number of accidents at work by assigning necessary priority to the safety since a safe way of working is a quality and efficient way of working. The pyramid of the overall of zero accidents is depicted in Fig.2.

Target of zero accident

Fig 2 The pyramid of overall goal of zero accident

The following three aspects are important for progress of safety in a steel plant.

  • The condition of the work place environment e.g. means of access, physical plant safety, housekeeping, and safe place of work etc.
  • The training and competence of the employees which include ability to understand apply and respond to safe systems of work.
  • The development of motivational and behavioural influences of employees. This includes the use of more direct strategies to identify unsafe behaviour and attitudes and to motivate employees.

The following are the essential elements which are necessary for implementation of safety culture in a steel plant.

  • There is substantial commitment and leadership of safety by the management both with heart and mind. There need to be a strong and visible commitment from the very top and communicated to and shared by all levels of management. Managers should set the examples and raise the standards by doing themselves what they are telling others to do.
  • Safety consciousness is to be ingrained amongst the workforce as well as among the top management of the steel plant.
  • There is to be a communication plan and a participatory way of working from the maximum number of employees which will confirm that the commitment towards the safety is real.
  • There is to be recognition of best practices in safety and there should exchange of the safety related ideas both within and between the departments.
  • There is to be an appropriate safety organization structure, which is well defined by the management and well understood by everyone. The safety organization is to have well defined role and responsibilities.
  • There are to be ambitious goals for the improvement of safety and measurement of progress by the collection of appropriate statistics.
  • There is to be a change in the attitude and behaviour of individuals and working groups with respect to safety.
  • Management should put into place mechanisms which have influence on behaviour of the employees towards safety. For example that the safety performance of the employee is to be recognized towards career development.
  • Through training programs, management should demonstrate that attitude and behaviour to safety is an essential part of the professionalism of every employee and everyone should accept his responsibility not only for his own safety but also for his fellow employees. After all, employees work in steel plant not as individuals but as a part of a team.
  • There is elimination of a two tier approach to safety. Contract workers working in steel plant should attain the same level of safety consciousness as the steel plant’s own employees and use the same methods to achieve this.

Good safety practices

Good safety practices include the following:

  • Assigning and publishing the responsibility and duties of the employees associated with the management of the safety in the steel plant.
  • Investigation of all the accidents whether small or big and the implementation of corrective measures.
  • Studying the significant safety incidents which have happened in other steel plants and learning from the same.
  • Registration and control of safety standards and maintaining a register of the significant incidents.
  • Internal and external publication of safety investigation results and the obtained experiences.
  • Conducting regular shop review meetings regarding status of safety in the shop as well as monthly review meeting at the chief executive level.
  • Conducting training as well as refresher safety training programs amongst the employees where investigation of various incidents are also to be discussed.
  • Conducting emergency safety drills.
  • Conducting of regular safety audits to locate unsafe areas and practices and to ensure that the corrective actions have been taken. Safety audits can also help in early detection of the equipment deterioration and the deviations and/or procedures that can degrade or deteriorate then safety levels.

Hazards in steel plant

A steel plant is full of hazards at every step of its operation. These hazards are to be tackled for the sake of safety in the steel plant. Major amongst these hazards are enumerated below.

  • Road hazards – Road hazards are high because of heavy concentration and heterogeneous nature of the road traffic. This hazard is having maximum intensity during the shift change timings.
  • Coke oven and byproduct plant – Here the main hazards are heat, dust, smoke, moving equipment, chemicals, fire and explosion etc.
  • Sinter plant – In sinter plant main hazard are moving equipment, dust and smoke etc.
  • Blast furnace – The main hazards at blast furnace are heat, dust, noise, liquid metal and slag, gas poisoning, moving equipments, moving locomotives, fire and explosion and working at heights etc.
  • Steel melting shop – The main hazard in this shop are heat, dust, noise, liquid metal and slag, moving equipment, suspended loads, working at heights and fire and explosion etc.
  • Rolling mills – The main hazards at rolling mills are heat, noise, moving equipment, splinters, cobbles, suspended loads and slippery floors etc.
  • Power plant – The main hazards are heat, working at height, noise, vibrations and gas and steam lines etc.
  • Material handling – The main hazards are posture, excess loads, moving equipment, improper signaling and suspended overhead loads etc.
  • Other major hazards which are common to most of the places are working in confined space, working with improper tools, poor illumination, poor ventilation, electrical hazards, loco movements, unmanned crossings, unpreparedness for emergencies, unsafe scaffoldings, over confidence and working without safety appliances, personal protective equipments (PPEs), written clearances, and shutdown clearances etc. Violation of safety protocols and shut down procedures etc. are also cause of hazards.

Safety mandates for 11 nos. major hazards in different areas of operation is shown in Fig 3

safety mandate

Fig 3 Safety mandates