Safety is our first priority. We often hear that statement in industrial settings. But it isn’t universally practiced. Several years ago, the IUPAC Committee on Chemistry and Industry (COCI), with support from UNESCO and UNIDO, developed a program to enable the development of stronger safety cultures in developing countries. The IUPAC Safety Training Program offers chemical professionals the opportunity to visit an industrial host with strong environmental, health, and safety (EH&S) programs and to observe first-hand what is required to create and sustain that culture. Once they have completed the training, the STP Fellows develop an implementation plan that describes how they will realize the value of the training by driving improvements back home. STP Fellows are typically invited to share updates at the IUPAC Congress/General Assembly STP Workshops. These presentations illustrate the impact of the program, as Fellows describe the improvements in the use of personal proactive equipment, safety devices, waste handling methods, pre-task analysis, etc. These sessions also inspire the workshop attendees to investigate opportunities for hosting STP trainees.
The biggest challenge to sustaining this program has been identifying host institutions that are willing to share their EH&S expertise with the STP trainees. After attending the STP workshop in 2011 in Puerto Rico, Dr. Al Ribes contacted the Responsible Care Leader at Dow Chemical, Terneuzen, Netherlands, to determine if Dow would be willing to participate in this program. Dow had provided similar learning experiences to fellows from OPCW and was very willing to host two trainees. A team then initiated discussions with COCI to identify the trainees and schedule the training.
In February 2013, two STP trainees from Africa arrived at Dow. Jonathan Babalola, Sub-Dean of Sciences and a Reader in Physical Chemistry, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, had been waiting for a training opportunity for almost 10 years. John Mumbo, Compliance and Enforcement Officer, National Environmental Management Authority, Kenya, had learned about the program while working on a UNIDO funded project on Cleaner Production. Upon their arrival at Dow, they were required to view a safety video and complete a test before they could enter the site.
During the training, John and Jonathan met with a number of EH&S professionals and laboratory staff members who covered topics such as safety equipment, management system requirements, compliance to regulations, emergency preparedness and response, training programs, hazardous materials, strategic planning, process safety, reactive chemicals, and industrial hygiene. Tours were provided of the manufacturing site, as well as R&D laboratories. Throughout the visit, they asked probing questions to understand the underlying objectives of each program, as well as its effectiveness. While the training sessions were lead by EH&S professionals, they also had the opportunity to talk with other employees to understand the safety culture: that each person has a responsibility and a role to play. The trainees learned the expression, “zero accidents, zero injuries, zero excuses”.
They each developed a plan of action to be implemented in their own institution upon their return. The actions were classified as immediate, medium-term, or long-term. Here are some highlights:
Redesign their approach to training with an emphasis on behavioral change and intrinsic values
Review the environmental impact assessments and audit to prioritize safety
Improve laboratory safety standards, including installation of safety devices and equipment and guidelines for inspections of laboratories
Include EH&S in the departmental strategic plan
Integrate an emergency security services (ESS) within EH&S
Include remediation of contaminated sites as an activity under rehabilitation of degraded sites
Develop policies on safety
Include safety practices into curricula at University level and implement safety education before the first-year practical exam
In April 2015, Bayer CropScience, in Research Triangle Park (RTP), North Carolina, hosted Dr. Ahmed Fahmy A. Youssef, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Cairo University. Dr. Youseff is a professor of analytical chemistry who also works on numerous projects in his home country of Egypt to address problems related to chemical waste management, environmental protection, and air pollution monitoring. His goal was to increase his practical knowledge of environmental process safety management programs.
In advance of his visit, members of the Bayer CropScience Quality, Health, Safety and Environment (QHSE) team, Patrick Ragan, Rehan Baig, and Lennie Scott, developed a detailed agenda with a variety of training sessions and off-site visits, including a Bayer production facility in West Virginia, a local landfill waste disposal facility, and the chemical waste handling facility at North Carolina State University. Dr. Youssef was invited to attend the Global QHSE North America Spring Community Meeting, where he gave a brief presentation about his work, and he attended the 11th Global Congress on Process Safety in Austin, Texas. He also paid a visit to the IUPAC Secretariat office in RTP.
Overall, the STP was quite positive and beneficial for both the host team and fellows, leading to increased global communication on chemical safety. Dr Youseff’s training was financially sponsored by the Civilian Research and Development Fund (CRDF) and the Chemical Security Program (CSP) of the US.
COCI continues to maintain contact and provide support for STP Fellows. Safety Training Program workshops are held in conjunction with each IUPAC General Assembly/World Chemistry Congress (A workshop is being planned for the coming GA in São Paulo). Speakers represent industrial, academic, and governmental institutions. Fellows provide updates on the improvements they have made in their home institutions and within their region or country. Jonathan Babalola has shared examples of improvements he drove in Nigeria, including improved waste disposal, safety training and behavior, and emergency response. Several STP Fellows are now collaborating on initiatives to develop Regional Safety Training Centers to expand the reach of this program. The first Regional Safety Training was organized by Professor Fabian Benzo, an STP Fellow from Uruguay. It was held in Spanish at the University of Montevideo in October 2016 (see www.iupac.org/project/2016-021-1-022). A proposal is now being developed to stage a regional STP in India in 2017 and work is starting on regional training in Africa. Efforts like these promise to drive improvements in EH&S practices, policies, and behaviors, and should reduce the number and severity of incidents.
COCI has a list of qualified applicants who are seeking this training. Applicants for the program should be trained scientific or chemistry professionals who are working in industrial, academic, or government institutions. They should have already achieved a position that enables them to drive changes in their organization, so that the benefits of the training can best be realized. A letter of support from their home institution is required. COCI handles the vetting of the applications to ensure that requirements are met. Anyone interested in hosting STP trainees is encouraged to contact COCI.
COCI and the STP Fellows appreciate the support of host companies, trainers, and sponsors of the Safety Training Program. Their dedication and efforts are making a difference and improving environmental, health, and safety practices. Together, we are driving behavioral and cultural changes to achieve the program’s vision: zero accidents, zero injuries, and zero excuses.
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