Safety is the top priority at the hygiene company Essity. The Essity Global Safety Week was organised recently, when Essity’s plants all over the world put an extra focus on issues relating to the work environment and safety. At the factory in Falkenberg, it was contractor safety that attracted some extra attention during the week.

Essity is one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of hygiene and health products. The company was formed in 2017, when the hygiene section of SCA was hived off to create a separate company. Falkenberg, on the Halland coast, is home to one of Essity’s production plants in Sweden, and this is where Magdalena Hellgren works as RESH Manager (Risk, Environment, Safety and Health). As RESH Manager, issues relating to the work environment and safety are given a lot of attention in work to make the factory a safe workplace. One mantra quoted is ‘Nothing we do is worth getting injured for’, and this is worth repeating.

“We want everyone to come home from work unhurt,” says Magdalena Hellgren. “ ‘Nothing we do is worth getting injured for’ is something we often return to, especially when we’re working in bigger group projects or have new employees. People who work with us will sometimes be stressed and tired, but they must travel home in the same condition as when they arrived. That’s our objective.”

A global safety initiative

One week every year, safety work is given an extra focus when the Essity Global Safety Week is organised, a key regular event at which safety issues are highlighted in all factories all over the world. Every year has its own theme, and the purpose is to reduce accidents and the workplace and increase risk awareness.

“We’ve been holding the Essity Global Safety Week for a couple of years,” says Magdalena Hellgren. “It takes place at all our plants all over the world, and this year’s theme was ‘Everyone is a safety leader’. We wanted to convey the message that everyone must feel responsible for their own plant, which here in Falkenberg involves 380 people. We want everyone to understand the rules and assume responsibility.”

The plants all over the world have to shape their own content for the Essity Global Safety Week. In Falkenberg, several activities took place during the week to highlight safety issues in various ways, from HLR courses to falling techniques with an employee who is a judo enthusiast. But the backbone of the week comprises the team meetings that the managers hold with the workgroups. Everyone in the factory is involved and contributes.

“Our focus this year was on ‘beliefs and behaviour’,” says Magdalena Hellgren. “This is a big issue for us and something we talk about a lot. During the week we stop production when we hold the team meetings, and everyone has the chance to discuss how they can be involved and contribute. We also look at our general safety regulations and make sure that everyone is updated about the content.”

It is important that everyone has the same basic knowledge of safety.

“It’s often those who are completely new and those who have been working for a long time who suffer accidents, for various reasons,” says Magdalena Hellgren. “New employees don’t have the same experience and don’t perform the same risk assessment, and those who’ve worked for a long time see shortcuts in their work.”

Contractors a particularly vulnerable workgroup

In the industrial sector, contractors and ancillary staff are a group that is often overrepresented in the accident statistics, and Falkenberg is no exception. Every day there are large numbers of local contractors in the factory, and as one element of improving their work environment there was an extra focus on their safety during the Essity Global Safety Week. They sat down together to discuss and reflect on improvements.

“We have many local contractors who work at the plant, and they’re important to us,” explains Magdalena Hellgren. “We sat down together and held discussions with them about safety and which risks they identify and what we can improve. As they also work at other plants, we can learn from one another.”

Every day counts

Even if a week of focusing in full on safety is important, it is the day-to-day work that counts. But according to Magdalena Hellgren, the Essity Global Safety Week has other benefits:

“One swallow doesn’t make a summer, you might say, but this week can give us a little boost in our safety work and get everyone to come together around the subject. It’s the other 51 weeks of the year that are the most important. The Essity Global Safety Week sends out a signal that safety is important, and this year’s theme should remind people that everyone is expected to work on safety.”

And when the week comes to an end, work to make the factory a safe workplace continues.

“The most important consideration is that you maintain a long-term, persistent approach to safety work. That we continue to manage risks, report near-accidents and create awareness,” concludes Magdalena Hellgren.