Echo safety measures achieve zero stoppages

STATUTORY regulations guarding health and safety in the workplace are being far exceeded by hollow-core concrete floor slab manufacturer Echo as employees get more closely involved in safety and quality management issues.

And as a result, “zero stoppages” over health or safety issues are being routinely achieved on building sites, says Echo Group Operations Manager Kgomotso Modise.

Employee interest in health and safety practices in the workplace, aligned to strict monitoring of product quality, is increasingly evident in the Echo Group’s manufacturing plants and on building sites, Ms Modise reports.

Echo Prestress’s ISO9001-2008 certified and SABS approved Chloorkop concrete panel manufacturing plant has a total staff complement of 147 people – 82 in the factory and the balance in management, engineering and design and general office administration. Measured by the size of that work force, under regulations imposed by the Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) Act, Echo is required to have a Health & Safety Committee of three people monitoring health and safety issues.

In fact it has six times that number – 18 men and women from every sector of the company, among them heads of departments, supervisors,
crane-operators, clerks and factory workers.

“But this is not a hierarchical setup,” Ms Modise says.” Everyone gets involved and contributes on a level footing, whatever rank they may have. Over recent years there has grown much greater concern about environmental and safety issues in every section of the Echo work-force – from top management down. Everyone wants to play a part.”

The high level of compliance under the Act extends all the way along the chain to Echo’s suppliers and on-site conditions.

“Procedures concerning the installation of a concrete panel at a building site don’t change, but the working environment does,” Ms Modise says. “Therefore, long before the first slab is delivered we will have made a thorough reconnaissance of the site and undertaken a detailed assessment of health and safety precautions which we think must be put in place before we move on to the site.

Echo aims for zero-rate work stoppages caused by safety or health issues, and its precautionary measures are achieving this.

“We haven’t had a stoppage for more than two years, thanks to the procedures we put in place. This is because the workplace environment and the safety of workers engaged in the manufacture and installation of the heavy concrete panels are at the top of Echo’s OHS management priority list.”

Another important step in ensuring on-site safety has been Echo’s decision not to supply its floor panels for any building project unless qualified engineers are involved in the design and construction of support structures.

But Echo concrete panels are much more than just a product delivered to site. Group marketing & sales director Melinda Louw says, “Over and above the assurance of health and safety, intensive research and development carried out by Echo over the past 28 years has been passed along to our clients to deliver an overall flooring solution.”