Close cooperation is the cornerstone of safety at the Port of Helsinki
Safety is paramount in harbour areas where people and large machines operate side by side every day. To ensure safety, the Port of Helsinki engages in close cooperation with the other operators in its areas.
Entering the lobby of the offices of the Port of Helsinki, you are immediately greeted by a digital display that shows a figure increasing by one each day. The figure on the display indicates how many days the Port has gone without an occupational accident resulting in an absence from work. The purpose of the display is to illustrate how important safety is for the Port.
“Port safety is a complex and interesting field, a multi-faceted network,” explains Occupational Health and Safety Manager Antti Saarinen from the Port of Helsinki.
A field made all the more complex by the fact that the Port of Helsinki is a so-called shared workplace. By definition, a shared workplace is a workplace that is used simultaneously by the employees of multiple employers or independent subcontractors.
A safe working environment for thousands of employees
In addition to the Port of Helsinki’s own 90 employees, the different harbours of Helsinki are workplaces to numerous logistics professionals, such as shipping company staff, dock workers employed by operators and professional drivers – up to thousands of people in total.
“Every employer operating at the harbours is responsible for ensuring the safety of their own employees. The Port of Helsinki, in turn, is responsible for creating a safe operating environment and developing common safety guidelines,” Saarinen summarises.
The Port of Helsinki engages in extensive cooperation with various operators in the field of safety. Risk assessments are carried out in collaboration with operators with whom the Port shares risks. In addition to this, the Port organises shared safety forums that are also attended by the authorities. The Port also maintains constant contact with different operators based on safety needs.
Operators do not compete on safety
Manager of Occupational Safety Arto Kauppila from Steveco succinctly points out that when it comes to safety, the different parties operating at harbours, such as port operators and shipping companies, are not competitors, but cooperation partners.
“For example, here in Vuosaari, we often exchange ideas about safety with the other local operators. Safety must not be a matter of competition, but rather something that everyone shares responsibility for,” Kauppila says.
Antti Saarinen from the Port of Helsinki confirms that this is one of the key principles of safety at the Port.
“It is important for us Port representatives to regularly meet with our partners and engage in cooperation with the authorities as well,” Saarinen says.
“This is why we are a member of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s Vision Zero network, in which approximately 400 organisations share ideas and information about the development of safety.”
Covid 19 shifted focuses
Saarinen says that the Port of Helsinki has supplemented its statutory occupational health and safety monitoring programme with its own zero accidents programme.
“The programme includes 25 concrete measures, the aim of which is to also develop our company culture and attitudes. The programme’s goals include reaching a high level of occupational well-being and reducing the number of absences due to sickness,” Saarinen says.
As of February, the Port has had to shift the focus of its safety efforts to minimising the impacts of the covid 19 outbreak. As a result, some of the planned measures have been postponed to a more suitable time in terms of the outbreak. Saarinen points out that although the outbreak has resulted in some particularly notable changes this year, change is also a constant under so-called normal circumstances.
“We have to keep up to date with how each individual change affects everything else and update our safety guidelines accordingly.”
Communication is an integral part of safety
As occupational health and safety manager, Saarinen assists the Port and its supervisors with tasks related to the accumulation of occupational health and safety know-how and cooperation between employees, occupational health care and occupational health and safety authorities. The Port’s Passenger and Cargo business units also have their own safety managers and teams who are responsible for developing and maintaining the safety of their respective units.
“I strive to promote occupational safety through communications as well: by sharing information and reminding people about safety issues. We regularly highlight safety issues on our intranet, and of course see to it that our staff are provided with the necessary training. Communication is an integral part of safety work,” Saarinen says.
Reporting close calls is essential
Arto Kauppila agrees with Saarinen on the importance of communication. When he took up the position of manager of occupational safety at Steveco, Kauppila set out to ensure that all information related to safety would be stored in one place, where it could be accessed by everyone at the company.
“We added a dedicated safety site to our intranet, where you can find all references to acts and decrees. The site is also updated with all the latest safety guidelines, observations made during safety walks and other related information. Employees can now access all of this information via their mobile phones,” says Kauppila.
Steveco has also made it easy for employees to report safety issues and submit suggestions. The employees of the company’s Vuosaari terminal, for example, have already submitted some fifty suggestions this year.
“The majority of the suggestions submitted by employees have to do with safety. Any suggestions that are approved for implementation also net a small reward for the employee who submitted it. Most recently, we rewarded an employee for the suggesting that we should mount carbon dioxide extinguishers on a rack used to hold temperature-controlled containers,” says Jani Ylämäki, the foreman of Steveco’s Vuosaari terminal.
Reported safety issues, on the other hand, have to do with potentially dangerous spots and close calls, for example. The Port of Helsinki also encourages its employees to report these types of observations, as they all help to develop overall safety.
Successful safety efforts acknowledged with coffee and cake
Saarinen points out that the most important aspects of safety promotion are prevention and foresight.
“It is important to adjust the company culture and attitudes towards thinking before acting. It is impossible to eliminate all risks in a harbour environment, but plenty of accidents can be avoided with the right attitude,” Saarinen states.
The Port of Helsinki also acknowledges its employees’ efforts in preventing accidents. When the info display in the lobby reaches a milestone, all the staff get to enjoy some coffee together, for example. Once the remote work recommendation necessitated by the covid 19 outbreak ends, the staff of the Port of Helsinki will once again be treated to some coffee and cake as thanks for their safety efforts.