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Global HSE Speaker Series Vol. 1- Health and Safety in Complex Operations

Updated: Mar 18

George Wagner is the Global HSSE (Health, Safety, Security and Environment) Director at Yilport Holding Inc., based in Istanbul, Turkey. Yilport facilitates shipping and handling of all types of cargo and containers. The company operates terminals in 22 locations around the world - Turkey, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Malta, Peru, Ecuador, and Guatemala.

George is a seasoned safety professional with experiences and accomplishments that span multiple industries and geographies. In this interview with the SafetyQube team at Quber Tech, George gives us a peek into complex port operations, the various HSE challenges the industry is facing and how he, together with Yilport, is managing them in this newly created role that exemplifies the company’s commitment to Health, Safety and Environment.

Health, Safety and Environment management is something that needs to be top on every company’s agenda. But when it comes to port operations, HSE takes on a slightly different scope and much larger scale than what most companies are accustomed to. On the environment side, George spoke of Yilport’s goal to operate green terminals and of the company’s investment in various innovations and technologies to ensure they operate in the most environmentally safe and sustainable ways. The goal is to minimise, or even eliminate, emission to air, water and soil and eventually reach a state where there is no net contribution to greenhouse effects.

On the health side, like other companies, Yilport had to make sure they can operate safely in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic. This is an especially tall order given the nature of port operations, where there is a constant flow of ships from around the world. Yilport put strict measures in place to ensure that ship crews are isolated from terminal crews and contractors as much as possible. Social distancing measures are in place when face to face interaction is unavoidable. The company is also enforcing temperature checks at all entrances to avoid admitting people with flu/cold symptoms and it follows each country’s Covid guidance closely in every location that it operates in.

On the safety side, the constantly changing footprints of the cargoes, containers and machineries in the daily operations is a challenge that is fairly unique to an industry like port operations. These movements, coupled with the size and weight of the various machines and objects, resulted in magnified risks for everyone involved. Risks that had to be managed before anything happens because, as George rightly pointed out, you don’t always get a second chance. Near misses may lead to fatalities and therefore need to be treated and investigated the same way as a serious accident.

“Stop and think before you do something. If you don't have a procedure for it, then do the risk assessment, do the evaluation and figure out how to do it safely so that you keep people out of harm's way.”

To assist in managing the safety risks, Yilport has invested in automation solutions for cargo handling, which allow them to plan for the safe storage and retrieval of various cargoes. On the monitoring side, the company is looking into how a digital solution can help with incident and hazard tracking and in creating a healthy safety culture for the company.

George is a big advocate of having a good feedback loop to foster employee engagement in managing a company’s HSE practice. He believes in open communication as the key to create a thriving safety culture. People need to be empowered to voice their safety concerns, but more importantly, they need to feel listened to. Lack of feedback will lead to frustration and complacency.

“A big chunk of safety culture development is listening and responding.”

This is where he feels digitalisation can be an effective catalyst to the positive change he wants to see happen in this field. Digitalisation will facilitate the reporting, recording and tracking of all safety concerns. Nothing will get lost under mounting piles of paper anymore, or forgotten because other priorities came up on the agenda. It will ensure actions are taken to address every concern and close the feedback loop. It will create visibility and provide a platform to share best practices, which will encourage learning and collaboration. A digitalised environment will also allow for the convenient storage and retrieval of various HSE contents and references, giving employees easy access to HSE materials.

Safety is a team sport. It has to include everyone and everyone has to be in it. To achieve that, Yilport has an extensive training program that covers everybody throughout the entire organisation, from yard crews to office and management staffs.

“It is a moral obligation to make sure that at the end of the day, everyone can come home in the same condition that they come to work in.”

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