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Safety is a way of life

Van Oord and safety go hand in hand. We expect our employees to take responsibility for their own and one another’s safety and to work proactively on creating a safe working environment. Our say YES to safety programme helps ensure that everyone goes home safe and sound at night. But safety awareness should extend beyond the workplace, for example when doing odd jobs, driving or taking part in sport, high risk or not. Allert Bosch, an engineer in our Offshore Wind division, tells us more about the parallels between his work for Van Oord and his remarkable hobby.

Extreme altitude

Allert Bosch has worked on the Gemini Offshore Wind Park and other projects. In his spare time, he is a mountaineer. He is a member of the Project 5 Peaks team, whose goal is to scale the five highest mountains in Central Asia. In the past two years, the team has summited Peak Lenin (7,134 metres) and Khan Tengri (7,010 metres), both in Kirgizia. Allert encounters many challenges in both his hobby and his work.

There are a lot of similarities between my work and the climbs we do. In both, we have one overriding priority: to come home safely at the end of the day and after finishing a climb.

Stop the job

‘Making our work safer doesn’t always come naturally. It demands awareness from project teams,’ says Allert. ‘It’s also very important to be able to discuss safety openly. Everyone should be allowed to down tools if they think the work isn’t safe.’ At Van Oord, any employee with safety concerns can stop the job, regardless of rank or position. We refer to this as ‘stop the job authority’. We ask all our employees to keep their eyes peeled for hazardous situations. ‘That’s no different in mountaineering,’ Allert continues. ‘Some hazards are unmistakeable, but others may escape your notice, for example because you don’t have enough information and assume, erroneously, that you’re safe. On the mountain, we’re constantly checking on the safety of the whole team, and we stop if we think conditions are not right.’

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Everything comes down to preparation

‘Extensive preparation and solid team communication are both critical,’ says Allert. The team starts testing its gear and discussing the climb many months before the start of a new expedition. ‘It’s important to agree beforehand – when we’re thinking clearly – what we need to do in specific situations,’ Allert explains. ‘We do the same for Van Oord projects: we survey the risks and make firm agreements. Before we start the work, we carry out the necessary risk analyses. That way we know the hazards and risks and can reduce the likelihood of accidents systematically.’ The HSE risk management flowchart offers a step-by-step overview of the most important precautions. ‘Making firm agreements in advance means we always have something to fall back on when unforeseen circumstances arise,’ Allert concludes. ‘Don’t just push ahead when that happens; take a step back and size up the situation.

Communicate with your team and stop when things aren’t safe. Take a step back, reassess the situation, and make the right decision.

Want to keep track of Project 5 Peaks? Visit their website or read Allert’s blog about scaling Khan Tengri in the summer of 2017.