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How did Cargotec improve its operational safety record during the coronavirus pandemic?


2020 marks the first time Cargotec achieved its safety target since Cargotec started its integrated sustainability programme in 2018. Pontus Alexandersson, Hiab’s Environment, Health & Safety and Sustainability Director, describes how the business area achieved these great results despite some extraordinary challenges.


Since the start of 2018, Cargotec has been integrating sustainability reporting into all of its business units. This means that all units, from front-line to workshops and even to offices, are required to report on safety, energy and environmental indicators.

Hiab, Kalmar, and MacGregor manage their own safety at the operational level. For Hiab and Kalmar in particular, equipment and components can be large or heavy, and even a process such as handling the paintwork for a crane requires an assessment of the risks involved. This is why safety is and always has been the number one priority for Cargotec’s operations.

As 2020 draws to a close, a set of impressive safety statistics improvements paints a clear picture of progress for the past three years, even in the face of a global pandemic.

So what improved, and how much?

The main industry metric that measures injury rates in work environments is called the Industrial Injury Frequency Rate (IIFR), which indicates the number of injury-causing incidents that occur in an organisation per million hours of work. This is the metric that Cargotec uses to assess its safety level.

The total number of lost time injuries at end of 2018 for Cargotec as a whole, including non-assembly sites, was 181, a figure that at the end of 2020 has significantly dropped to 106, a reduction of 41%. Assembly sites have attained even better improvements, with a 56% reduction in the total number of accidents at the end of 2020 compared to 2018.

The IIFR for Cargotec’s assembly lines at the end of 2018 was 6.7. It is currently at 3.4. In other words, there has been a reduction of 50%—again, half.

Specific business areas have also managed to reduce assembly line lost time injuries drastically over the past year. At Kalmar, six incidents have been recorded in 2020, a reduction of 65% compared to 17 in 2019. Hiab has achieved a 65% drop in incidents, from 46 at the end of 2019 to 16 this year.

By the end of 2020, 40% of sites will have had no lost time injuries for the year, and 70% of non-assembly lines will have had no lost time injuries for the year.

Strong safety culture at Stargard

The operations of Kalmar and Hiab at the Stargard multi-assembly unit (MAU) in Poland offer insight into what accounts for such a successful reduction in the IIFR over the past three years.
In 2020, there was only a single lost time injury for Hiab and a single lost time injury for Kalmar in Stargard. In 2018, those figures were 13 and 10 respectively, which means that the total lost time injury rate at Stargard has improved by a combined rate of over 90%—an extremely impressive result.

One of the key success factors for Stargard has been making safety the top priority across the board and promoting it as a part of the MAU’s work culture. “This has been done in three ways,” says Pontus Alexandersson, Environment, Health & Safety and Sustainability Director at Hiab. “Firstly, through proactive reporting to ensure that on a daily basis work is done in a safe manner and constantly improved in the safety area; secondly, through transparency in communication to employees to always conduct work in a safe way and; and thirdly, by ensuring standardised work methods in order to conduct work in a safe way.”

Proactive reporting creates engagement

Prevention is the foundation of safety culture. Better safety results come from building on top of this foundation and reporting unsafe conditions or unsafe acts to promote safety work. Proactive reporting is important because it creates engagement and motivation when supervisors listen and take quick and effective action.

“On a Hiab level, if you look at our safety pyramid, there have been over 2.5 reports per person for the year,” says Alexandersson. “That’s what really drives safety culture. Reporting unsafe conditions or actions, paying a lot of attention to near misses. If someone sees unsafe conditions, they really do report them quickly and action gets taken as rapidly and proactively as possible.”

Empowering employees through transparency

Transparency in the workplace, including speaking up when something is not right, is highly valued at Cargotec. This empowers employees to provide trusted guidance to each other with regard to safe behaviour.

This level of transparency would not be possible without the full cooperation of top management. Supervisors communicate safety expectations and results, and are also receptive to suggestions on best practices.

At Hiab Stargard, supervisors hold daily operational meetings. That means that every day begins with the awareness of safety. When the conversation about safety occurs at all levels of an organisation, it creates engagement, and that engagement leads to a safer workplace.
“Transparency here is such standard practice that you can talk to a colleague and tell them to watch out, or that they shouldn’t be doing something in a particular way, and it’s always well received,” says Alexandersson. “Of course, this takes time to build into the culture, but the picture of proactive reporting speaks for itself.”

A framework for safer work processes

Standardised work better lends itself to risk assessment, and therefore leads to safer work processes. Using a uniform framework enables employees to evaluate whether or not there are safer options for procedures, to discuss those options with operators, and to implement them in an engaging way.

“In practice, this means continuously conducting risk assessments to mitigate risks,” says Alexandersson. “When you enter Stargard, you get this feeling that there’s a real focus on safety at all levels.”

Turning challenges into opportunities

The main focus for Cargotec during the coronavirus pandemic was the safety of employees. This meant the implementation of policies that have come to be standard, namely social distancing and recommending that employees work from home or avoid travelling where possible.

In April, 2020, Hiab established its COVID programme to ensure smooth communication between sites around the world, share preventive actions, instructions and best practices, and generally keep employees safe. In order for sites to share best practices, emphasis is placed on streamlining the data flow so that any and all information that passes between sites is clear and timely.

Part of the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic is that different countries have been affected in different stages. In addition, the rate at which the virus spreads is unpredictable. For example, Hiab has multi-assembly units in both Spain and Italy, which were two of the first countries severely affected by the pandemic.

“But this was also an opportunity for Cargotec to quickly learn best practices from those sites, and then develop preventative actions that could be rolled out to other sites in case the pandemic reached them,” says Alexandersson.

Staying up to date with the latest recommendations from such a wide variety of countries is another challenge. Even though the reach of the pandemic has been global, different countries have taken different approaches.

“Cargotec needed to create the conditions for employees to be able to work safely, which we did by encouraging employees to work more as one large unit rather than as individuals,” says Alexandersson. “In safety meetings, for example, safety information was disseminated consistently across all sites.”

Governments have also put a lot of work into creating useful roadmaps and recommendations that have been designed to maximise safety. There have been practical guidelines for social distancing when entering or working in shared spaces, reopening workspaces safely, cleaning, and the correct use of personal protective equipment (PPE), among others.

The safety journey ahead

Today, the IIFR for assembly sites is 3.4. That means that Cargotec is proudly on track to achieve its safety target for the first time— a result earned through concerted effort and determination.
Alexandersson reflects on Hiab’s safety ambitions for the future.

“We are very proud of all the hard work we have put in over the past three years to achieve this result. The interesting and motivating thing about safety work is that in reality you can always improve in the areas of safety, so it’s a never-ending journey. It can always be better, and that’s the mindset we should adopt on our safety journey.”

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