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"When the positive culture is there, the rest follows automatically"

Gordana Djurdjevic is Corporate Environmental Health and Safety Manager at Leadec for the USA and Canada. In this capacity, she is responsible for planning, implementing and optimizing occupational safety, health and environmental protection processes. In this interview, she reveals her philosophy and talks about the role played by occupational safety in the modern production environment.  

Why is occupational safety an important issue in the production environment?

Gordana Djurdjevic: Because everyone has the right to return from work safe and sound. Safety is an absolute must, in every environment. Wherever you have a lot of people working together, just one wrong decision or a shortcut  by one person can also have a major impact on others who are not involved. However, safety doesn’t end at the factory gate. It’s not just at work that we can attach great importance to a safe environment; we also need to make safety part of our daily routine. In our personal sphere we tend to take more risks than we should. For example, we might stand on a wobbly chair to change a light bulb or clamber around unsecured on the roof to clean out the gutters. Our approach is therefore that there needs to be a genuine awareness of safety around the clock. 

How can you create this kind of awareness? 

We have to take a multi-layered approach. And to do that we need comprehensive guidelines and programs with clearly defined requirements. We also need to get every single person involved. I believe that transparency about the status of safety activities, an inclusive safety culture and communication are the key to ensuring that the entire workforce internalizes the issue of safety and its importance for them personally. Because safety affects all of us. 

What are you doing in the USA specifically? 

It’s important to share best practices, documentation and tools. We do regular site visits and assessments and call on the workforce to talk about their successes but also the challenges. We also take part in “HiPo” (high potential incident) reviews relating to an incident (accident, near miss) with the high potential severity to have caused serious injuries or fatalities. Together with the teams on site, we work through such incidents and help them to find and document the ideal solution for a problem and develop suitable countermeasures. And we regularly provide advice about the potential safety risks lurking in people’s private lives and leisure activities. 

What role does digitalization play in your work?  

During our site visits we collect relevant data using our management system Cority, which provides us with a comprehensive information base. This is the key to recognizing company-wide trends and helps us identify those areas where we need to step up our focus on work safety.  

Doesn’t a greater degree of automation, for example in the smart factory, inevitably reduce the importance of occupational safety? 

Despite automation, factories are still not and never will be devoid of people. But people will be doing different tasks, and they still might make mistakes in haste or through ignorance that could have consequences for life and limb. And even in this kind of environment, we aim to convey to people that they not only need to look out for themselves but also those around them. There is an inextricable link between safety and people.  

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