“Keep people safe at work, so they can go home to their loved ones!”
At Unger, we are celebrating the second year of our safe working environment with no injuries that can cause absence from work. This significant achievement reflects our commitment to employee well-being and safety within our organization.
To raise awareness of the importance of health, safety, and environment (HSE), we did a very informative interview with our HSE Engineer, Thomas Kierulf Lindahl! We encourage everyone to take a look at this nice reading to learn the good work behind success and remember the importance of HSE!
Interview with Thomas Kierulf Lindahl, Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) Engineer at Unger
-Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your role, and your responsibilities as the health, safety, and environment engineer at Unger?
My name is Thomas, and I am 39 years old. I have been working in the chemical industry for about 25 years and I have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry.
At Unger Fabrikker, I am working as a HSE Engineer since 2022. My responsibilities include maintaining and following up on our plan for working with safety issues and setting up focus areas to make sure our plant gets better every day. I also have a responsibility to the government regarding environmental safety and following up on regulations.
-Did you always have this purpose about health, safety, and environment? What motivates and inspires you about this position?
I have not always worked with HSE but I am a YES person who likes to have fun and love challenges. I think that gives me a lot of opportunities. I believe when you say yes to a lot of different tasks you learn a lot about work, yourself, and working with others. When I look back on my career, it has given me a variety of knowledge.
When I was 18 years old, I started working in the chemical industry at Kronos Titan AS. At first, it was only weekends, since I was still going to school. After I got my degree in chemical, they offered me a position as a process engineer. I worked there until 2016 and I was lucky to learn a lot about not only the production of chemicals but also about HSE. After Kronos, I worked for 6 years as a production manager and HR manager at one of the biggest laundries in Norway. Working in those positions that are closer to people made me more interested in HSE. When you know the people and are interested in them, you also wish them to be happy and healthy.
As you see, I have never worked directly with HSE, but it has been a big part of my work in the last 25 years, and I have been lucky to start out my career at Unger, a company that has been a pioneer of its time regarding HSE.
My motivation comes from making our day at work a good day, going to work must be safe and it is supposed to be meaningful. Today, a lot of us are at work together with our colleagues for 8 hours a day. That is more than we spend together with our loved ones at home being awake. That is why it is important that we have a safe workplace so that we can come back home healthy and spend time with the people we have chosen to spend our lives with. That has become more important to me after I had kids, and that is always in the back of my head: Keep people safe at work, so they can go home to their loved ones!
Congrats on the two years with no serious injury! What are some key initiatives or strategies that have contributed to Unger’s success in maintaining a safe environment over the past two years?
I think the key is to make HSE personal and communication! I spend a lot of time out in the plant where the people are and where the injuries happen. Communication and listening to people, their opinions, and experiences are maybe the most important part of the job as an HSE engineer.
Can you highlight the safety programs or protocols that have been particularly effective in ensuring the well-being of the Unger team?
We have regular meetings called HSE meetings where every department is represented. In these meetings, we discuss HSE in general. Every month we have safety inspections where we look at the plant with our HSE goggles. We have a very nice team of safety inspectors, they do a great job discussing and talking about HSE in their department every day. Last year, we did a great job evaluating our risks and that makes our risk assessments more reliable.
Maybe the biggest change we have made in the plant is working on cleaning and making the plant look good. We have now a common understanding about how we want things to be around us.
Other than that, it is important for me that I am available out in the plant and keep focus on the everyday problems, and difficulties and building trust. I think trust is key to getting people to talk about mistakes and problems.
Our focus for 2023 has been getting better at reporting incidents and problems. In 2022 we noticed some trends and we have been focusing on reporting issues on a day-to-day basis. I think that is the key to progress.
Also, last 4 months we have increased focus on root cause analysis to learn more about why things happen. Learning from our mistakes is very important.
How did the rest of the Unger team help you achieve this success? And what kind of initiatives do you take to motivate and encourage the team to participate in safety protocols?
I think the Unger team has this great attitude to do their work with pride and do a good job every day. The people here are fantastic, and I think that it is something with the Unger spirit that makes us special. I think the important thing is that they welcomed me and saw me as a part of their team. I believe that the people at Unger are honest, and we can call the situation as it is and not ignore things.
I think it is not possible to highlight only one person in the organization who has done something to avoid an accident. I believe that everyone does small things every day to prevent an incident. The small things such as caring for your colleagues, by pointing out that they need to use the correct safety equipment are just as important as anything else.
Tell us a little about Unger’s approach to health and safety. Do we have any new initiatives or advancements in safety protocols for the future?
At Unger, HSE is the top priority and we want everyone to go home safe and spend time with their loved ones.
Besides the focus on root causes, next year, we are starting to work with HOP (Human and Organizational Performance). The key is to make it our own and to find our way to work with this tool. HOP has five main principles which are;
“Human error is normal.”
“Blame fixes nothing.”
“Learning is vital.”
“Context drives behavior.”
“How you respond to failure matters.”
Next year, we are taking 3 of them below as core;
“Human error is normal.”
“Blame fixes nothing.”
“How you respond to failure matters.”
What types of training programs have been implemented to keep our workforce updated on safety practices? How do you ensure that all employees, including new hires, are aware of and adhere to safety protocols?
First of all, every new employee in the company must take our mandatory HSE training before they can start working in the factory. We are now working on making this training online and making it mandatory for everyone every 2-5 years depending on where they work.
Training in the correct use of equipment and having instructions on how to work safely is something that we do. Also, before dangerous work operations, we do an HSE evaluation of the operations as a part of the job. If something is not right, we assign the task.
We also have team training where the team leaders, the team members, and I get together and talk about safety in their plant.
Our safety representatives also do a fantastic job every day. We also have 4 meetings a year to gather and talk about the issues and things people need to focus on.
How do you feel about the achievement of a two-year serious incident-free milestone?
I feel that it is a great performance and I believe together, we can do anything. The thing I am most proud of is that we have started to change our view on HSE and I hope that we can continue to make HSE reasonable, understandable, and practical. HSE must work in day-to-day business.
I want to thank everyone at Unger for being who they are. I believe that the diversity in the team is important to progress. I want to thank everyone for making me feel welcome from day one and for the good discussions we can have together!