Equipment Safety Across Borders

Feb. 14, 2014

Reprinted with the permission of Equipment Manager magazine, the magazine of AEMP.

Equipment safety and regulatory compliance create an entirely different game when you’re a player in the global market.

For instance, Atlanta-based Oldcastle Materials is part of CRH, the parent company based in Dublin, Ireland. The vice president of environmental health and safety for Oldcastle Materials is Lee Cole, who, under the CHR umbrella, is involved with projects and joint ventures in 32 countries, including Great Britain, the Netherlands, Poland, Ireland, the United States and Canada.

At Texas-based Bechtel, Kenneth Burke, CEM and local operations service manager, has responsibility for projects in about 50 countries, including Chile, Thailand, the Philippines, Australia and Peru as well as the United States and Canada.

Each of the two companies is structured differently, yet both have successfully unraveled the complexities of a global market while maintaining high equipment safety standards that comply with regulatory requirements of each country.

“There is a safety manager like myself in each product group for CRH representing the 32 countries where we do business,” says Cole. “The small core group of five people meets on a regular basis, two or three times a year, to share best practices that we have throughout our global operations. In addition to what is required in a particular country, we discuss what is expected from CRH and Oldcastle—which is always a higher standard. As a group we establish best practices and the safety expectations for those companies under CRH no matter what country they operate in.”

Once the group determines the effectiveness of the best practices in providing greater benefits to the working environment, that information is shared across the different countries, Cole says. “Our expectations go beyond requirements of local governments.”

Examples of best practices that have been globally deployed, Cole says, are backup cameras and warning systems for certain pieces of equipment and stairs in lieu of ladders on equipment, along with simple things such as operator training and convex mirrors “that provide improved visibility to the operators.”

One of Cole’s counterparts, Michael Keating, director of safety and health at Europe Materials, says the challenges of conducting business globally range from differences in legislation to the quality of safety regulation enforcement to the general safety culture within the different countries.

“To manage this challenge, our focus has been on agreeing at a corporate level on what are the best-practice standards that we require and turning those best practices into mandatory safety and contractor management,” Keating says. “Internal requirements that supersede national legislation and standards are also mandatory.”

Burke says Bechtel has safety core processes that cover everything from aerial equipment to cranes to pile drivers to powered forklifts.

“When we deploy or go to a project (in another country), we take our standards and standard work policies and procedures to use in developing our safety program and how we are going to execute it,” he says. “These rules cover everything we do, every project, and are the overarching rules we utilize.”

In the infancy of a nondomestic job, the project team and the client team engage with local authorities to lay down what the rules and regulations are, what their local standards are and “identify any potential deltas with the equipment and tools,” Burke says. “We then get the appropriate inspections done, make the necessary modifications, or in some instances, buy specific equipment to meet the applicable regulations.”

Burke says the first project he did for Bechtel was in Iceland, which is an associate member of the European Union. As such, Iceland follows the EU standards, called a CE mark. “We worked with equipment manufacturers to get the CE mark prior to mobilizing to the site,” he says.

After that, Burke worked with suppliers and OEMs and purchased the balance of the fleet for that particular job.

To be a player in the global market, one of the most important things a company can do is have a record system “that tracks the equipment, tracks the work orders and where they were executed,” Burke says. “Such a system allows you to provide due diligence. It’s a collaborative effort with my team and the project team. When and if an audit occurs, (that record) shows you’ve dotted all your i’s and crossed all your t’s.”