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Spring Journal

Volume 31, Issue 1

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Monday, 12 March 2018 14:09

Creating a safety culture in Latin America

A prevalence of high-risk industries such as mining, exposure to powerful pesticides in agriculture and the exacerbation of risks due to climate change, these are just some of the factors that contribute to occupational health and safety hazards in Latin America. But a culturally rooted lack of awareness and engagement is perhaps the greatest danger of all. 

With some 130 million workers earning their livelihoods in conditions of informality and one in ten not having access to social protection, it is little wonder that health and safety is not always top of mind for employees in the Latin America region. However, some organizations are taking the lead in challenging the mindset of many of their workers to bring their health and safety performance to the next level. Here, we talk to experts in Latin America about “where to from here” with ISO 45001, the new International Standard on occupational health and safety management systems.

“Occupational health and safety concerns all of us… It is about the lives and well-being of our colleagues,” says Sergio Henao Osorio, Organizational Change Manager at Ingenio Pichichí S.A., one of Colombia’s leading sugar cane manufacturers. “But the key issue in Colombia is that there is not a true health and safety culture in the workplace. That is one of our challenges, but it is also one of the pillars of our mission: to make it a key value for all our staff, and something we honour in all our activities.”

Ingenio Pichichí S.A., which has a staff of 792 plus 995 contractors, boasts an accident rate well below the 7% average in Colombia and is one of the highest-performing organizations in the industry when it comes to safety. “Our aim is to achieve a zero-accident rate,” explains Sergio, “therefore, we are continually working on ways to encourage self-responsibility, the use of protective equipment, providing the best technologies and generally promoting an overall safety culture.”