Preventive work in occupational safety increases well-being and work efficiency
Responsibility is a key value and strategic guideline for Oulun Energia. It means taking care of people and the environment in a way that fosters the sustainable growth and development of regional well-being. Oulun Energia Group employs more than 240 people, and their well-being and work motivation are key to its success. For this reason, we strive for good management, an inspiring atmosphere, and occupational safety.
Occupational safety is a whole consisting of a safe working environment, a functional work community, and suitably challenging work. When these conditions are met, work is meaningful, rewarding, and productive.
Striving for a completely safe working environment
Working with energy production and the distribution of electricity and heat is critically important and therefore rewarding, but on the production side, working conditions can be challenging.
Oulun Energia has succeeded in raising occupational safety to a very high level with its determined and continuous work on development. The Group aims to have zero injuries and zero accidents every day of the year. This aim was met again in early February 2022. The longest completely safe streak to date is 519 days.
This proves that it is possible to maintain the safety and health of a workplace even in such a demanding sector, as long as everyone has a shared desire and goal. The Occupational Safety and Health Act governs the operations, but each employee must work together in order to ensure occupational safety.
Investing in a positive culture of safety
Traditionally, occupational safety is about avoiding accidents, developing instructions and safety precautions, and learning by coincidence. But how can occupational safety be developed when safety is at such a high level that no discrepancies are detected?
Tuomo Räisänen, Safety and Security Manager at Oulun Energia, is responsible for the development of occupational safety.
Oulun Energia decided to turn its attention to ensuring daily safety. "We'd like to think that safety is comprised of successes, ease of work, and effortlessness," states Group Safety and Security Manager Tuomo Räisänen. When the Turvallisuus 100 (Safety 100) project was introduced in 2018, it was positively received throughout the Group. However, Räisänen feels that highlighting successes is a habit not yet sufficiently rooted in everyday life. Therefore, making additional efforts is necessary.
There was a desire for an independent assessment of the current state of occupational safety and the effectiveness of the tools in use. It was decided to commission a study as a Master's thesis at the University of Oulu, which was completed in 2021. The findings and development proposals that emerged now form the basis of a new occupational safety development plan. There is an even greater focus on prevention, learning from daily activities, and continuous improvement.
Occupational safety challenges vary from business to business
Oulun Energia Group uses an occupational health and safety system in accordance with the ISO 45001 standard, which dictates common operating models and practices. In addition, however, we must take the specific needs of different businesses in terms of working environments and conditions into account.
"We have a lot of work tasks that are technically challenging and crucial for safety. It is important that all of our employees are aware of the prevailing risks, are able to operate safely, and are vigilant in their work," Räisänen explains.
According to Räisänen, the most crucial function in terms of safety is power generation. All of the power plants use different energy sources, so there are substantial differences in how they are operated and thus in their security measures. For sorting plants operating in the circular economy business, the risks are comparable to those of power plants.
In electricity and heating services, the most significant risks relate to the construction, servicing, and maintenance of the distribution network. Some of the tasks are carried out by external contractors, which requires ensuring a smooth exchange of responsibilities and a reliable flow of information.
The diverse work environments in power generation necessitate prevention and planning
At Oulun Energia, the power plants responsible for power generation are completely unique as working environments and therefore offer their own safety challenges. Power plant mechanic Jonne Pussinen considers the most significant challenges to be related to changing work environments and new and renewable generation plants.
According to Pussinen, the most important thing in ensuring security lies in the employees' own planning, scheduling, and prevention: "The work must be completed decisively, but also safely." A positive attitude concerning safety has borne fruit, as employees can already think about their own safety and that of others even before beginning their work.
Positive attitudes towards occupational safety and highlighting daily successes have brought thinking about safety to the home and to all aspects of life. "People have noticed that investing in safety benefits both themselves and their coworkers," Pussinen, who also acts as an occupational safety and health representative, notes.
Electricity distribution is under strict control, but preventive occupational safety still needs improvement
For Oulun Energia's electricity network services, the most crucial tasks in terms of occupational safety are related to the construction, operation, and maintenance of the electricity network. There are always dangers associated with electrical work, so proper guidance and protective measures are key.
Operations Manager Matti Lehto, operations director of the electricity network and director of electrical installations, underlines the importance of preventive occupational safety work.
Operations Manager Matti Lehto, operations director of the electricity network and director of electrical installations, says that in order to ensure occupational safety, a guide to the risk assessment of electrical installations has been compiled, comprised of guidelines for supervising fault and operation work on the network, as well as instructions on working alone and using protective equipment. Compliance with all instructions is closely monitored. Other measures are also in use, such as safety observations, safety rounds and briefings, as well as safety instructions and training for external actors.
According to Lehto, great strides have been made in occupational safety work, but understanding of preventive occupational safety should be further increased. "We must adopt the attitude that it shouldn't be necessary to set targets for the amount of safety observations or safety rounds, but that safety work is in the 'backbone' of every employee," Lehto says.
Positive safety thinking is already evident in the conversations within heating services
The construction, servicing, and maintenance of Oulun Energia's district heating network is technically demanding and includes tasks that are crucial from the point of view of occupational safety. According to Janne Komulainen, Construction and Safety Coordinator, the planning phase is the most essential: "That's where safety must start from, and it must follow along throughout all of the stages and elements of the work."
Oulun Energia's district heating network is built, serviced, and maintained on hundreds of different construction sites every year.
According to Komulainen's assessment, the most significant safety challenge is related to excavations, which are often located right in the middle of human settlements. There is always a risk of falling and injury, especially when visibility is poor. Oulun Energia acts as a construction developer organization, taking care of the planning of work and safety instructions. Contractors carry out their work in accordance with the instructions and plans they have received.
Occupational safety has been a success, which Komulainen believes is due to the fact that many things have been done correctly and that these days, work, discussions, and planning constantly involve safety thinking. Occupational safety work and management has evolved a lot and become more professional: "It is apparent that the management is thinking about safety and investing in its development, and from there it spreads down to employees," Janne concludes.