“Help us take our policy on substances up to the next level” was the request from Gerard Scheffer when he called us in 2015. Within Royal TenCate Gerard is the occupational health & safety and environment coordinator with responsibility for policy on hazardous substances. With all kinds of substances and mixtures along with many years’ experience with Stoffenmanager®, TenCate considered the question: ‘How are we doing, is everything as it should be in terms of the regulations and what are the next steps we should take?’
TenCate, which is based in the east of the country, is a Dutch multinational and market leader in fibres for artificial grass, protective materials as well as a manufacturer of composites for the aerospace domain. This truly international player employs some 4,300 people working in four independent divisions and has a number of operating companies in different European countries. Safety, health and environment are also the responsibility of the line organisation. The staff department, where Gerard works, facilitates and advises the line organisation. Quite some task, certainly when you consider that knowledge about dealing with hazardous substances is such a specialist field and that this knowledge is not available everywhere to the same degree.
Koen Verbist, senior advisor at Cosanta BV, helps companies up the rungs of the Stoffenmanager® Implementation ladder. This Stoffenmanager® Implementation ladder sets out clearly where a company stands in respect of its substances policy and what the next logical steps are to ‘grow’ towards an integrated approach for hazardous substances.
Our approach was to perform a scan to determine TenCate’s position in terms of the regulatory framework. This revealed clearly those areas where attention was required and what concrete subsequent and improvement measures TenCate could take in this respect. An important aspect in our approach was to boost the engagement of employees and management in the process. After performing the scan and interviewing a number of those people involved, TenCate was presented with an organisation plan containing the measures that it should take to ensure that hazardous substances could be handled also in the future within its own corporate culture.
By now, the project’s completion is well behind us, so this is a good opportunity to ask Gerard how things have been going since. Does he feel that further measures have been taken? A resounding ‘yes’ is his answer. “Of course, we have been seriously engaged in substances policy for more than 20 years. We have a lot of substances and mixtures that we work with at TenCate. We have been using Stoffenmanager® for many years and when Stoffenmanager® Premium became available we switched to it.”
During the interview, it became clear that working in different divisions also entails the need for middle management to be aware of the potential risks of working with certain substances. Working with substances is quite a specialist field and not everyone has the same degree of knowledge about it. It was positive to hear from Gerard that progress had also been made here. Gerard: “As a member of the staff department I advise the production managers in the line organisation about safety and how to work with substances. What this project has done is to help boost the engagement of employees. I notice that they are now more aware, for example, about using personal protective equipment. Since they have more insight into the risks, they are more engaged.”
But that’s not end of story. Gerard also notes that much more focus has now come for the ‘front’. Gerard: “Before substances are purchased and enter the factory, they are first assessed, and I consider that to be a real improvement.” The greater awareness among colleagues is evident from the purchase of a new machine. ‘When we invest in a new machine, in the purchase phase we look not only at the safety aspects but also at the labour hygiene aspects.’
It is good to hear of positive side-effects that are resulting from the specific focus there has been on hazardous substances.
Finally, Gerard says that TenCate intends to take further steps along the ladder, something that has also been translated into more manpower. More hours have been made available throughout the organisation to support the substances policy. As far as this is concerned, Gerard is positive about the future.