Tata Chemicals Limited

Published on Jul 17, 2009



"Safety is a core value. It needs to be deeply ingrained in our structure and corporate culture."

Mr. R Mukundan Managing Director, TCL


Over the years, TCL has continuously strived to improve its safety performance by adopting the best safety standards and practices. Prior to 2004 when TCL Mithapur embarked on the safety journey with dss+, its primary measure of safety performance was the number of "Reportable Accidents" reported every year. As can be seen from the graph on reportable accidents between 2000 and 2003, maintaining a consistent level of reduction was a challenge.


"We must have strong safety systems and culture as prerequisites for future growth."

Mr Prasad Menon, Managing Director, Tata Power Limited (formerly MD, TCL)


Besides the variations in safety performance, fatalities and near-fatality incidents were occurring indicating that the results were also not sustainable. There was also a serious process safety incident in 2001 that caused the plant to remain shut for nearly three weeks.

Until 2004 when dss+ was appointed to assist TCL to embark on a more sustainable and accountable safety program, TCL's safety culture had been mainly reactive and dependent. The safety performance measurement system was not consistent with international standards and with those used by companies with world-class safety performance.

Safety was considered to be the sole responsibility of the Safety Department. The line organization was not given any safety-related goals or responsibility for safety, thus "buy-in" was minimal and impossible for one group to achieve on its own.

"Reportable Accidents" were defined as injuries that resulted in lost time of two days or more, as per the legal requirement in India during the years before dss+ was appointed in 2004.


How it all started

In 2004, TCL appointed dss+ with the aim of instilling a safety culture transformation that would eliminate sporadic incidents by changing the mindset and behaviour of the people involved with setting safety requirements and those who were implementing the requirements.

dss+ developed a safety roadmap for TCL Mithapur based on the results of the safety management assessment followed by an action planning workshop conducted by dss+ which encouraged TCL to assist in developing safe alternatives in the workplace.

In the safety roadmap, Mr Prasad Menon, Managing Director, Tata Power Limited (formerly MD, TCL), committed to the following objective: "To create a management culture that demonstrates SAFETY as Missionary Zeal and safety culture that permeates through the organization and onto our families.


The early days of the safety culture transformation journey

One of the first priorities of the safety culture transformation was for dss+ to conduct a safety management assessment at the TCL Mithapur site. The assessment was conducted in September 2004 and identified the key safety leadership, structure and action elements that needed to be put in place or strengthened to bring about a safety culture transformation.

Following the safety assessment, an action planning workshop was conducted to help TCL Mithapur develop and establish a roadmap for implementation. The roadmap included a series of training for enhancing TCL senior leaders' demonstration of their commitment to safety and their plan and to get line organization and safety professionals' buy-in and accountability. Great emphasis was laid on strengthening line management's responsibility and accountability. A key focus emphasized the need to engage all TCL employees in the safety effort. TCL also started working on establishing systems for tracking trailing, current and leading safety indicators. The training series was followed with on-site implementation assistance through one-on-one coaching and hands-on experiences.

In addition to training and implementation assistance, dss+ also facilitated the visit of about 15 TCL leaders and employees to the DuPont Savli plant in Gujarat, India. The visit and training opportunity helped TCL gain insights into the DuPont safety management philosophy and enabled TCL to see dss+ system in action in India.


"I am confident that TCL Mithapur is on course to becoming a world-class site. However, I would not like this to be a 'quick- win' process, but rather a 'slow-release' one, so that the culture of 'zero harm' gets embedded in our site's DNA."

Dr Arup Basu Chief Operating Officer Chemicals, TCL

Challenges encountered - Going beyond on-the-Job injuries


From the beginning of the safety culture transformation, TCL had set a clear direction on safety priorities. Mr DK Thakur, Head, Safety & Health, TCL Mithapur said: "Our approach and efforts are focused on continuously strengthening safety culture in the organization through behaviour-based safety observation; prevention of incidents through incident reporting (including near-miss); investigation and communication of learning; developing and implementing rules and procedures; and identifying training needs and imparting training.

"It also includes deploying Contractor Safety Management, Office Safety and Process Safety and Risk Management systems. We extend the emphasis on safety of the families of our workforce with an 'off-the-job safety' program," Mr Thakur added.

On average, 4,000 TCL employees and contractors work on the TCL Mithapur site each day. A major challenge was to bring about a behaviour and mindset change amongst these people. Changing mindset in the words of Mr Mammen Jacob, VP Manufacturing, TCL Mithapur was "a tall order" due to a wide gap in safety behaviour expectations when an employee or contractor is inside the company premises versus when he or she is outside the company premises.

TCL Mithapur took various safety initiatives to change employee behaviour within the company premises, including putting in place a Behavioral Safety Observation process. TCL also recognized the need to take specific steps that address the employees' behaviour 'off-the-job' including setting up a Township Safety Committee. This promotes off-the-Job safety through several community initiatives. One example was the distribution of safety crash helmets at less than half the market value to all employees using two-wheelers. Other initiatives included involving school children to introduce them to safety at an early age so they could assist their parents at home with making wise safety decisions.


Spreading the safety message to contractors

The other challenge faced by TCL Mithapur was to improve the contractor safety performance. Mithapur is considered a remote location and the availability of contractors is limited. There is also a high illiteracy rate and turnover among contractors. To address these challenges, TCL Mithapur developed a Contractor Management System with a coordinated safety training program to improve the contractors' overall safety performance.

The effort was further expanded in January 2008 with the launch of "Contractor Safety Stewards" to involve contractors' employees in the safety drive. Each month, a "Safety Steward" was selected from a group of 50 contractors. The Safety Steward's main responsibility was to ensure that his/her team worked safely, and that the team adhered to all safety rules and regulations. The role is rotated within the contractor group, and about 600 contractor employees have been trained as Safety Stewards as of April 2009. The goal is to cover all contractor employees.

Looking at the success of the contractor safety steward initiative, TCL is also evaluating the possibility of a similar program for their own employees, such as 'Safety Stars'.


Sustaining the momentum

By 2005, TCL had put in place an integrated safety organization including an Apex Safety Council and six standing sub-committees. The six standing sub-committees addressed Safety Observation, Incident Investigations, Safety Rules and Procedures (Standards), Safety Training, Contractor Management, and Process Safety Management. Eleven ad-hoc Task Teams were also established to address and resolve plant-wide safety issues. In February 2009, an "off-the-job" safety sub-committee was established to complement the efforts of the Township Safety Committee.

Multiple communication avenues from electronic communication channels to newsletters and billboards are currently used to keep the organization engaged on the council and sub-committee's safety goals and programs. Several face-to-face forums/platforms have also been created for more effective communication during Safety Observation rounds by the site leadership.

Several other programs are also in place to build capability, motivate, involve and provide awareness about the safety initiatives. "Near-miss" reporting is encouraged. Suggestions and reward schemes have been introduced. Two safety awards have been constituted to recognize outstanding "group safety performance". The awards are: The Managing Director's Award for the department with best safety performance and the Managing Director's Award for the contractor with best safety performance. TCL has also put in place schemes to recognize individual safety performance. The awards are very important to boost employee morale and provide motivation to improve safety performance.