Aveng Group’s operating group, Aveng Water, tells Engineering News that two of its plants have been operating for three years without lost-time injury (LTI).
This covers the operation and maintenance teams at the Erongo desalination plant (EDP), in Namibia, and the Optimum Coal water reclamation plant, in Mpumalanga.
The company has achieved this by implementing stringent safety standards at all its operations. Aveng Water’s water treatment plants are OHSAS 18001- certified by global supplier of occupational risk management services and solutions provider NOSA and independent auditor NQA Africa. This certification is multilisted and, therefore, a nonperforming site may cause Aveng Water to lose its certification.
“This type of incentive ensures that all sites perform and maintain safety to the minimum requirements of the OHSAS 18001 standard,” says Aveng Water MD Gavin Young.
“Our people and the environment are important to us. We live by our Aveng Group safety slogan: Home Without Harm, Everyone, Every day. We value our employees and, as a result, always strive to prevent injuries and accidents,” he adds.
This means the company regards safety as the responsibility of not just management or safety officers, but everyone involved in the work environment. “Further, we encourage our employees to practise the same principles within their homes and communities,” says Young.
Aveng Water notes that it applies the same standards across all its projects. “All sites take pride in their safety performance and every achievement is recognised and celebrated,” notes the company.
Aveng Water wants to create a ripple effect, where individuals who are trained in health and safety transfer this knowledge to the community and the country.
“Regular internal and external audits are conducted to ensure standards and compliance are maintained at high levels. Peer reviews, from a management perspective, are also conducted every year. The site managers participate in these audits as co-auditors, together with the safety, health and environment officers, and best practices are shared on a peer-to-peer basis,” notes Young.
The EDP, 30 km north of Swakopmund, near Wlotzkas-baken, was the first, and is currently the largest, seawater desalination plant in Southern Africa and can produce 57 000 m3/d.
“Low-carbon power generation solutions supplier Areva Namibia is proud to have been associated with Aveng Water for the last three years. Its professional daily maintenance and operations have delivered optimal results. We congratulate their team,” says Areva Namibia MD Hilifa Mbako.
Further, Aveng Water designed, built and has been operating and maintaining the Optimum Coal water reclamation plant, which can treat 15 000 m3/d. The water is treated using Aveng Water’s cutting edge HiPRO membrane technology, which produces drinking-quality water from mine water, in accordance with South African National Standards.
“The Optimum colliery is proud to be associated with Aveng Water because of its good safety record. Safety is a team effort and we congratulate the company for reaching another milestone in its safety achievements. We urge Aveng Water to remain focused at all times and never allow complacency to creep in. We look forward to celebrating four years of no LTIs next year,” says Optimum colliery mine water management superintendent Jannie Horak.
Meanwhile, Aveng Water has invested heavily in staff training and process knowledge and plans to continue investing in staff, as this has yielded positive results.
The company notes that it spends on average about 2.5% of its direct labour costs on external training. “Our staff are trained in first aid, firefighting, handling breathing apparatus sets, water treatment process and theory, working at height, basic rigging, snake handling, PAS 55- and OHSAS 18001-compliant safety topics, defensive driving, programmable logic controller software, emergency procedures, chlorine gas handling, site- specific safe work procedures and Aveng Group safety directives, as well as various other Aveng Group and client initiatives,” says Young.
The company regards training as a critical part of safety. Employees are not only taught how to safely perform a task at hand but are also educated about the consequences of departing from that safe practice. “Employees need to be trained in the hazards of the work environment and the reasons for certain controls being in place, as well as in identifying unsafe working conditions,” he adds.
Aveng Water notes that subcontractors are often not up to standard with safety, health or environment issues. “Many subcontractors simply do not offer us opportunities to quote for contracts, owing to our stringent safety standards and requirements. “Finding subcontractors that place the same value on safety as we do is becoming difficult,” says Young.
Further, the company notes that, ultimately, staff on the ground are most at risk of injury or facing health impacts, and that having a safety system in place, with adequately trained administrators, is vital.
“Safety, health, environment, risk and quality efforts are of no value when someone takes a chance that he or she should not be taking or chooses to deviate from health and safety procedures owing to the wrong attitude of quickly wanting to complete a job, or production pressures,” adds Young.
Aveng Water notes that water plants are generally clean and orderly places; however, moving forward requires clients to start demanding that no harm comes to any human in the process. “One injury is one too many, regardless of the extent and reason for that injury,” says Young.
“All accidents can and should be avoided,” he stresses, noting that the company will do every- thing possible to maintain its flawless LTI performance until Aveng Water has decommissioned the EDP.
Aveng Water notes that occupational health and safety legislation is becoming more stringent and, therefore, companies are forced to become more competitive in adhering to standards. “However, with a well-trained competent workforce and a well-entrenched safety culture, Aveng Water will lead the industry by example,” Young concludes.