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Safe behaviour minimises accidents at work

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An accident at work is the tip of the iceberg. For every accident there are several similar “near misses”, preceded by a multitude of careless, unsafe work practices. VTT and Hercules Finland Oy are developing an operating model that will help to notably decrease unsafe work practices. The Tampere Regional Institute of Occupational Health, Rautaruukki and Fortum are also taking part in the development work.

“We want to eliminate even that one single statistically possible work accident. The only snag is that we all have to begin doing everything safely, following instructions. A concrete example is that the use of protective goggles should be increased from its current level of 80 per cent to 100 per cent. The obstacle has been people’s attitude, not the lack of protective goggles,” explains factory manager Miika Eerola of Hercules Finland Oy. The company produces chemicals that improve the moisture endurance of paper and board products, such as household paper and disposable paper cups.

According to Eerola, the company’s equipment and safety management systems are in order. One of this international company’s internal objectives is safe behaviour. The company is learning new things with VTT and is now developing instructions and tools for safe work behaviour that suit the Finnish work environment.

“The idea of starting to improve our own behaviour while on the job is unique. I believe that our way of thinking will also change as a result,” he says.

The employees of Hercules Finland Oy will begin examining their behaviour in two work situations: in the resin treatment chain, from the disassembly of pine oil raw material to the final production of the resin product, and in loading delivery trucks. The loading involves an additional challenge: the driver of the delivery truck, who plays an important role in the loading process, is employed by another company.

VTT has a great deal of experience in work safety. Senior research scientist Kaarin Ruuhilehto says that companies are increasingly emphasising behavioural safety processes, alongside the care of hardware and software.

“A good manager does safety rounds on the factory floor, and each workplace should individually formulate the right safety observation and feedback processes. Perhaps the most important thing is the willingness to adopt a different attitude, to create an environment that encourages giving and receiving feedback at the workplace. After all, the staff are responsible for their own actions,” says Ruuhilehto.

She notes that when work accidents are rare, people get used to risks and tend to compromise safety rules. Behaviour must be continually monitored. When safe work practices produce positive and beneficial results, they will be used again. Carrots achieve more than sticks, though sticks are needed, too.

The project on safe behaviour, led by VTT, is funded by the Finnish Work Environment Fund, the Tampere Regional Institute of Occupational Health, participating companies and VTT. The project is developing tools for analysing work behaviour, user guidance, observation and feedback processes, visible management etc.

For further information, please contact:

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Kaarin Ruuhilehto

VTT Industrial Systems,
Kaarin Ruuhilehto,
Tel +358 (0)3 316 3271,
+358 (0)40 522 005,

Hercules Finland Oy,
Miika Eerola,
Tel +358 (0)3 382 7712,
+358 (0)40 547 1405


Feel free to use all news. Photographs copyright Kalle Heiska.
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