Occupational safety is a promise buyers have come to expect
“Welcome!” says Quality Manager Pasi Uotinen, opening the door to Stalatube’s Lahti plant. “You are always welcome to come by and see what’s going on here,” he says, leading the way.
Inside the plant, workers wearing coveralls and helmets focus intently on their tasks. Hearing protectors and safety boots are part of the standard gear, and those working at the welding stations are also wearing protective glasses. Everything looks tidy and under control.
“Last year, everything related to occupational safety has been revamped,” says Uotinen proudly.
The motive behind the update was to fulfil the new industry standards. In last September, Stalatube was granted ISO 9001:2008 certification, OHSAS 18001:2007 occupational health and safety certification, and EN ISO 3834-2:2005 welding quality management system certification, and carried out a periodic assessment of the ISO 14001:2004 environmental management system.
The combination of numbers and letters illustrates the fulfilment of increasingly stringent requirements. For Stalatube, a company known for treating its employees with respect, meeting these standards is a matter of honour.
“You can get the same product at a lower price in China, and nowadays the quality might even be similar to ours. But the manufacturing process is a whole different story,” says Uotinen.
As an example, he mentions the latest certification application, which included a form asking whether personnel get to go home for the night or if the company uses child labour. “For us, of course, the questions were absurd, but in other parts of the world they are most definitely relevant,” he says.
In order to secure the latest certifications, Stalatube went over the operations of the entire plant, charting potential risks and then thinking about how to eliminate or at least minimise them.
“One major issue was separating the routes of people and materials,” says Uotinen, recounting the improvements made at the plant. “We found room for improvement in, for example, protective gear and recycling. We also placed further emphasis on the initiative shown by the employees in terms of improving their working conditions. Now, roughly 20 improvement suggestions or near-miss reports are made at Stalatube every month.
“For years now we have had in place a system for continuously improving our employees’ initiative and for encouraging reporting. We nevertheless decided to place even greater emphasis on the issue and built a mobile app intended for employees to help further the matter. The app makes it even easier to report risks and problems,” says Uotinen.
Even though Stalatube has always been a leader in its emphasis on occupational safety and environmental friendliness, ethical values have become increasingly important as a result of tougher competition. It’s no exaggeration to say that looking after these values gives the oil & gas industry licence to operate. Norwegian oil & gas industry customers, for example, are becoming increasingly particular about the conditions under which the products they purchase are manufactured.
“They often visit the plant themselves and carry out audits so that they can be assured of the certifications that have been granted,” says Uotinen, adding that he considers it a wise practice. “Not only does it work in everyone’s favour, it is also a clear competitive advantage for Stalatube. We don’t want to sell just products – we sell an ethically produced, total process.”