Aluminium Bahrain (Alba)

Feeling the heat in Britain

As Head of Compliance at Aluminium Bahrain (Alba), one of the world’s largest aluminium smelters, Hesham Alawi Abdulla has an impressively wide remit. “I’m responsible for managing the compliance to Alba’s management systems and cultivating awareness of safety throughout our company as bringing in the best training programmes,” he reveals.

It was Hesham’s search for a training provider with international credibility which brought him to IOSH in 2017. He understood that the IOSH trainer network delivers courses to 180,000 delegates in 74 countries. Not to mention meeting the requirements of ISO 45001, the new international standard that gives organisations a framework to improve employee safety, reduce workplace risks and create better, safer working conditions.

With more than 2,800 local employees, Alba was already committed to taking its health and safety responsibilities seriously, hence the SHE department have identified the supervisors behavioural culture as one of areas for improvement.

“We’d previously run campaigns and implemented programmes for supervisors but they were often limited in providing us the change that we really needed” he admits. ”Also, supervisors were somehow reluctant to engage fully with safety because they mistakenly believed that safety is the senior management duty and they need to obtain operational results only.”

Hesham knew they had to try something different to get the OSH message through. “Our main concern was lack of supervision in the middle layer between top management and workers (this accounted for most accidents during 2016). So we brought in IOSH’s Managing Safely training as a programme that was easy to understand, deliver and implement.”

“Managing Safely includes a risk assessment for workplace ideas and we were very interested to see what our supervisors would devise,” he continues. “We really wanted projects that would improve working conditions by doing something new and delivering real change. The most effective project submitted is designed to eliminate hazards in the reduction lines (where raw ingredients are melted down in a giant cooking pot before the aluminium is siphoned off with air). It was an excellent example of a supervisor going the extra mile.”

Managing Safely also offers wider scope for Hesham: “It showed us the true capabilities of our supervisors and was indeed a useful tool to measure their progress which was done via careful assessment of the changes made in the supervisors area to improve OHS at their workplaces after the course.”

A positive change

In the aluminium industry, electricity (a current of 400 kilo amps) presents the biggest hazard, alongside the heat involved in the melting process (up to 1000°C) and other hazards. At Alba, the ambient heat problems of working in Bahrain’s harsh climate, which can reach 50°C within the plat during high sumnmer, is another factor.

In addition, Alba is one of the oldest aluminium plants in the region (originally opened in 1971) – so most work involves high levels of human interaction and manual handling.

“There’s still a long way to go to reach the highest levels of OSH,” believes Hesham. “However, Managing Safely has meant that our supervisors are now talking about safety issues, with others keen to take the course. It’s because they’ve heard that the training is serious and constructive with strong assessments and engaging instructors. Feedback shows that delegates enjoy the presentation style, too.”

The delegates also reported positive feedback about the different elements of Managing Safely: assessing and controlling risks, understanding responsibilities and hazards, investigating incidents, and measuring performance.

According to Hesham, some delegates have occasionally been shocked by gaps in their knowledge. “For example, module 6 (‘incidents and investigations’) explores the root causes of accidents – which subsequently changed the attitude of many supervisors,” he confirms.

The next stage for Alba is to accelerate Managing Safely provision throughout 2018 to train 300 supervisors. In addition, the company plans to run IOSH’s Arabic language version of Managing Safely to enable non-English speakers to benefit from this key knowledge. Alba is also planning to deliver IOSH’s Working Safely programme (firstly in English and then Arabic).

In fact, 2019 promises to be a significant year for Alba with a $3 billion ‘Line 6’ expansion project, creating the world’s largest single site aluminium smelter in the world. And, of course, IOSH is part of the company’s wider ambition to embed health and safety best practice throughout the business.

Organisation profile:

Aluminium Bahrain is one of the world’s largest aluminium smelters and known for its high quality aluminium. Alba officially commenced operations in 1971 as a 120,000 tonnes per annum smelter. Today, it produces more than 971,000 metric tonnes per annum. Around 50% of its output is supplied domestically, with the rest exported. The Alba plant comprises five reduction lines, two cast houses, three dedicated carbon plants, coke calcining plant, water desalination plant, 11 fume treatment plants, marine terminal, and power plant (four power stations).

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