Ports are targeting higher standards for health and safety

Melbourne
Murray Newton, Corporate Relations Manager, Port of Melbourne, says that there are many opportunities afforded by the ISO 45001 standard. Image: Port of Melbourne
Port of Melbourne
Port of Melbourne port and tower. Image: Port of Melbourne

John Bensalhia investigates the implications, benefits and challenges connected with the ISO 45001 health and safety standard for ports and understands why ports regard the process as a beneficial one

Upgrades are not just the province of modern gadgets and technology. Improvements are taking place in all quarters to progress life at home and in the workplace. A recent example of this is the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO).

In March 2018, ISO 45001 was published for the first time, with the ultimate aim of reducing the level of occupational injuries and diseases. More than a year has passed since its
debut, and with the 2021 deadline more than a year and a half away, higher numbers of ports are getting on board with the new standard's requirements.

“ISO 45001 is an international standard that aims to improve an organisation's occupational health and safety (OH&S) systems,” explains Stuart Balmer-Howieson, Port of Blyth's HR & Safety Manager. “There are a number of benefits to be gained by attaining the standard, including increased awareness of OH&S risks, employees taking a more active role in OH&S, and most importantly, a reduced risk of incidents. In our competitive industry, it is important for us as an industry leader to continually strive for the highest of standards whilst staying at the forefront of best practice.”

Murray Newton, Corporate Relations Manager, Port of Melbourne, says that there are many opportunities afforded by the ISO 45001 standard.

From a safety point of view, Mr Newton explains in detail that the number of risks and injuries are lowered while safety levels rise: “ISO 45001 provides an opportunity for ports to develop safer work systems and procedures, particularly for high-risk work environments. As well as this, it means that ports can develop KRAs to improve OH&S  outcomes and reduce the number and severity of injuries through root cause analyses and a commitment to continual improvement. Improved hazard and risk identification and subsequent mitigation / control measures result in lower risks.”

Mr Newton adds that other benefits arising from ISO 45001 include an increased visibility in contractor management and a greater understanding of issues and expectations to improve outcomes for customers, port users and other stakeholders beyond the port gate. “Furthermore, it enables ports to develop consistent processes and improve stakeholder engagement,” he confirms.

Ports around the world have been working hard to attain the accreditation. To achieve a successful outcome, detailed assessments have been carried out, with favourable results at locations such as the Port of Blyth. “It was a proud moment when we were assessed and certified with the ISO 45001:2018 accreditation for all of our operations here at Port of Blyth,” says Stuart Balmer-Howieson.

“The accreditation is a true reflection of our entire workforce commitment to excellence. It is them that make us who we are today. However, another important factor that contributes to our success and helps us to showcase our standards, is not only gaining the latest accreditations in our industry but also being the first UK port to do.”

Not only does the standard improve the Port of Blyth's overall health and safety initiative as a business, it will also allow the Port to continue to tender and be considered for projects from the oil, gas and renewable energy sector.

“Many businesses often require standards such as ISO 45001 to be in place from a service provider such as ourselves and this next step allows us to stay at the forefront of the safety in the port industry,” says Mr Balmer-Howieson. “It is important for us that our clients can always be confident in our commitment to safety and gaining this latest accreditation is one way of showcasing our dedication to this area.”

A positive result has also been achieved for Forth Ports. All eight Forth Ports' operations in the UK gained the ISO 45001 accreditation, including Tilbury on the River Thames and the Scottish ports of Grangemouth, Leith, Rosyth and Dundee.

During a two-week period, the detailed audit of the group included interviews with employees, inspection of quaysides and office-based reviews of administration.

Stuart Wallace, Chief Operating Officer for Forth Ports commented that Health & Safety is a key priority for Forth Ports, with the standard providing both employees and customers with the “reassurance” that “robust processes” are implemented at the eight locations.

The first international terminal operator in the Philippines to garner the ISO 45001 standard, Asian Terminals Inc. (ATI), has always put safety at the top of the priority list, with a number of notable innovations and initiatives, such as a fall arrest system, solar-powered twist-lock pinning stations, edge protector prototypes and general cargo handling procedures.

ATI executive vice president, William Khoury, explained that as a responsible port organisation, ATI's commitment to implementing “the highest standards on health, safety, quality, security and environment” are collectively contributing to “safer, better and more efficient port services for the Philippine supply chain.”

While achieving ISO 45001 brings positive developments for ports, attaining the standard can bring its own challenges. Murray Newton says that the challenge is two-fold, looking at the issues posed from both implementation and operational angles. “In terms of implementation of ISO 45001, the cultural change required may be significant depending on the maturity level of the organisation. A significant change management program may be required.”

Mr Newton adds that a critically important aspect of the process is strong leadership, requiring a commitment to change and continual improvement. The right approach to implementing the standard is also vital for ports, which he confirms as meaning “it should be viewed as a sustainable business methodology rather than a certification project.”

The other side of the challenge - operational - presents its own issues for ports. Murray Newton says that such challenges include “High risk operations such as cargo handling, working at heights, near water and confined spaces, line-handling and interactions between plant and people.”

Management of aspects including dangerous goods, the presence of on-site multiple contractors and competing priorities of compliance and commercial imperatives can also
prove to be an obstacle for ports. “As well as these, other operational challenges include rail and road interactions and the balancing of port operations with local community
needs/expectations, notably noise, light and air pollution.”

With respect to the level of time and money required to invest in ISO 45001, Mr Newton says that this will be dependent on a number of factors, stating that it "depends on the maturity level of existing business processes, the culture of the business and commitment of the leadership team to resource the project adequately.”

While ISO 45001 training can be logistically challenging to arrange, fortunately, extra solutions are available in addition to the traditional classroom set-up (see Beyond the Classroom). With more global ports achieving the ISO 45001 standard before the March 2021 deadline, this means a healthier and safer working environment.

With the Port of Port Elizabeth gaining this status in May 2019, port manager Rajesh Dana explained that this would have a hugely positive effect on boosting safety levels even further. “ISO 45001 will allow us to control all factors that might result in illness, injury and in extreme cases, death, by mitigating adverse effects on the physical, mental and cognitive condition of our employees, stakeholders and visitors, ensuring zero harm."

"We can honestly say that the time and dedication required to gain this standard have been more than worthwhile and we will be recommending to colleagues throughout the industry to work towards ISO 45001 as soon as possible,” concludes the Port of Blyth's Stuart Balmer-Howieson. “In the meantime, our team will continue to maintain the standard and demonstrate the Port of Blyth's dedication and commitment to Occupational Health & Safety at all times to all of our stakeholder groups.”


Beyond the classroom

Educating ports about the ISO 45001 standard means it is essential to keep up with developments in this field. The usual classroom methods are now augmented by online learning - an ideal tool for port managers and employees who may be too busy to attend courses in person.

In addition to its range of classroom training courses, the BSI Group also offers a broad spectrum of online courses relating to this sector. Classes are available for migrating from the old BS OH SAS 18001 to the new ISO 45001 and how to implement the new standard at an existing business. As well as these options, online courses tackle managing safety refreshers, managing safety for non-UK students, the new standard of safe working, and its management.

Another example of this method can be found at Lloyd's Register, which has introduced five new eLearning courses (with more to come later in the year). This offers greater flexibility for port teams.

Learning can take place anywhere, anytime - from lunch breaks in the canteen to the port offices. All that is needed is a laptop (or even iPhone), a good Internet connection and a
mind willing to absorb knowledge about the new standard.

In fact, the launch of Lloyd's Register's new training platform means that online courses can be accessed on any device. Those with an Apple device, for example, can take advantage of a special app that allows course content to be directly downloaded.

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