Making Safety A True Priority

Mohamad Zahid Bin Wagiman, Vice President of Environmental, Health & Safety (EHS), Marine, ST Engineering, talks about safety management in the shipyard, and how this contributes to customer value creation.

Q: How has safety management evolved under your watch, and how do safety practices differ for the shipbuilding industry?

Although we often talk about digitalisation and transformation, to me, safety fundamentals have not changed. By this, I am referring to attitudes and everyday behaviours that prevent incident and injury from happening in our workplace. It is about convincing people to be constantly mindful about safety, whether they work in an office, on board a ship, or in the yard.

Our industry is subject to certain high-risk activities, such as hot works in confined spaces, chemical cleaning and spray painting, which are undertaken only after mandatory site inspections and risk assessments by the EHS team, and management approvals. We work very closely with the production team to operationalise the safety practices according to prevailing regulations and project timelines—whether for maintenance, repair, overhaul or newbuilds.

Over the years, the skillsets, qualifications and expectations of the EHS team have grown alongside the company. For example, when we expanded into environmental engineering, we had to learn about safety standards that are atypical to shipbuilding. Likewise, the safety and housekeeping quality and practices on board super yachts are vastly different from the requirements for tankers.

Nowadays, we can leverage new technologies to enhance safety supervision. For example, mobile applications are used to improve hazard reporting and reinforce safety practices. Having said that, technology is no substitute for workplace safety—it can only support some of the routine processes while we focus on more critical decisions.

Q: How do you see safety management supporting Marine’s business strategy and value creation?

For us, the EHS mandate extends beyond the protection of lives and prevention of harm to property and the environment. It also underscores our strategic business direction, organisational performance and corporate governance. While we are constantly keeping abreast of the latest safety regulatory and legislative requirements, we believe that safety compliance can contribute to a healthier and more productive workplace, and pollution-free environment.

Q: How do you keep people enthusiastic about practising safety, and what keeps you going as a safety champion?

To foster a safety culture, we welcome all staff to contribute ideas and feedback pertaining to safety practices in their own line of operations. We also collaborate closely with our contractors and incorporate their safety ideas into ongoing projects.   Our safety initiatives cut across all levels of the workforce. At the operational level, our Behavioural Based Safety (BBS) Programme is aimed at getting supervisors and workers to observe, identify and correct each other’s at-risk behaviours. Aligned to BBS is our Hazards Reporting Programme, whereby EHS risks are captured and surfaced to relevant parties for immediate corrective action. To keep people on their toes, the EHS Work Plan is reviewed every quarter. This serves to strengthen our safety initiatives while driving our incident-prevention efforts. We incentivise safety behaviours by introducing recognition and award schemes for outstanding EHS contributions. For example, we designate safety role models, and reward deserving safety efforts by employees and contractors during company events.

Some of our senior managers are members of the Association of Singapore Marine Industries (ASMI). Through the collaborative ASMI-ST Engineering Marine Mindset Programme, we are able to benefit from industry best practices, while we share our own workplace safety and health (WSH) experiences with the marine industry.

We also work with key customers to foster an inclusive and shared safety culture. Outcomes include the Naval Logistics Command (NALCOM)-ST Engineering Marine Joint WSH Manual, a bridging document on WSH policies and procedures that serves to facilitate compliance and establish common understanding on safety practices between two organisations.

My ultimate goal is to create a safe workplace, making sure that my colleagues can return safely to their loved ones at the end of each work day. This, coupled with the organisation’s consistent progress and achievements in WSH practices, is what keeps me going at all times.

Q: What are the key challenges in safety implementation and how do you overcome them?

As a leading shipyard, we are committed to high safety standards. We benchmark our EHS performance against the best EHS players industry-wide and internationally. However, it can be challenging to operationalise our safety standards when there are differences in safety frameworks, and where injuries and accidents are accepted as an occupational norm.

Every time a customer vessel arrives at the yard, we would educate and engage with the crew on our safety regulations and standards. Our EHS officers are trained to communicate the technicalities underlying various safety considerations. We would come up with solutions, such as bridging manuals on vessel safety management systems, to establish the basic safety practices in compliance with local legislations.

With regards to safety, there can be no short cuts, and many of our customers have expressed their gratitude to the team for proactively sharing our safety practices with them. On some occasions, we have had to learn from the safety practices of our customers, and we would swiftly adopt any valuable lessons as part of continuous safety improvement.

Q: What was the impact of COVID-19 on safety practices in the yard, and did the precautionary measures affect customer service?

Besides the main COVID-19 safe management measures introduced during the Circuit Breaker period, we expanded our procedures to ensure the safety of all who worked in the yard. This included complying with additional regulations such as swab tests, to safeguard the health and wellbeing of our migrant workforce, as well as vessel crew, who were not allowed to mingle or leave their cabins while the vessel was undergoing repair and maintenance. This was in line with the safe-distancing practices in our yard.

We continued with all our customer safety meetings via video conference. We made the most of these opportunities to engage with all customers across the command chain—from the vessel owner through to ship captain, chief officer and chief engineer. As the safety management officer of the company, I am very proud of our staff and contractors for doing their best to make up for any service inefficiencies, which were inevitable during this time. Because they understood the consequences and risks of COVID-19 exposure, they persevered in “walking the talk” by cooperating fully with all the safety measures.