Health and Safety Leading Specialist tells about safety regulations compliance at work

Absolute Safety is difficult to achieve, but we must always strive for excellence 

At a new place of employment we sign one important document – behavioural safety rules. For some companies it is just a formality, but not for highway operator UTS. Chief specialist on health, fire safety and environment of 416 km TP subdivision of M4 Don highway Igor Filippov tells why the skills of using a fire extinguisher, knowledge of evacuation procedures and daily medical examination, as well as hygiene rules are key to efficient, comfortable and safe work in the company, especially in the challenging times of mass spread of COVID-2019 virus. 

- What are the duties of the health, fire safety and environment department?

- We ensure safety of the company employees as well as comfortable work environment. Aside from the head, there are 10 people in the department: 4 specialists work at M11 Neva highway and 6 specialists – at M3 Ukraine and M4 Don highways.

Our duties include introductory briefings and trainings on occupational safety for all employees (especially for cashiers because they cross the lanes several times per shift), first aid and fire safety. Every half a year we carry out evacuation drills to prevent the workers from perplexity at emergency and make them follow the required plan of actions. The firefighting briefing is aimed at the same: we tell how to take off the seal, take out the pin and make the extinguisher work, where to direct the jet. 

The skills gained at such trainings also help our users at road emergencies. For example, it happened that the driver had wiring short circuit and the car caught fire on the highway, and our employee helped to put out the fire with an extinguisher before EMERCOM team arrived. 

We arrange special training on first aid at road accidents for the Traffic & Safety Inspectors.

Moreover, our department monitors compliance of the company with environmental standards: we keep a record of the amount of plastic and other waste in all subdivisions and try to reduce it. For example, this year we plan to switch the company to disposable cardboard tableware.

- Who and why shall receive medical examination at work? 

- According to the applicable laws, any employee using company vehicles shall receive mandatory daily pre- and post-trip medical distance examinations. It allows to determine that a person is healthy, not exhausted, did not take alcohol or other substances which can affect his ability to drive. 

The process is well organised and simple, the employees undergo medical examination remotely: each of them has a personal profile where they enter all health measures (blood pressure, heart rate, temperature) on their own. The process is mandatory monitored by a health worker through a web camera. The doctor decides whether to permit a worker to work the shift or not on the basis of the entered data and visual examination. If data indicates that a person cannot drive a vehicle, he/she can undergo the examination later: sometimes the results are affected by agitation or lack of proper focus while entering the data. If the repeated examination gives the same results, we ask the worker to refrain from driving.  

- How do you monitor the working conditions? Why is it important?

- Various approaches to the processes are based on ergonomics. Ergonomics is the scientific discipline which is based on physiology, technique and psychology of how people interact with their work environment. In other words, it studies how to arrange the work space properly, design comfortable and utility furniture taking into account human needs.  For example, the cashier workplace is arranged in such a way as to make the user servicing as fast as possible and not exceeding 10 seconds. Therefore, everything needed must be in an easily accessible place. Special attention is given to the chair, because cashiers spend most of the work time sitting. The chair must be as convenient and comfortable as possible without causing pain or harm to human body. 

Also, our department is currently developing a special programme on proper manual handling of loads. So, during a special training we will explain the employees what weight can be lifted with no harm to health if job duties require to do so, as well as what materials handling method is considered to be acceptable. The target of the programme is to avoid occupational injuries in the result of load handling.  

Human safety at performing the immediate job duties is elaborated in the same way. It is elaborated in details how a cashier walks out to the lane, comes to the workplace, how shifts are changed. Or, for example, how engineers work with the equipment directly on the lanes. 

Nowadays, various operations are automated, however a person is still in the centre of everything and lots of things depend on him.

- What advice can you give to the colleagues on how to make the workplace more comfortable? 

- There are several simple rules of workspace arrangement: first of all, you should pay attention to the lighting – the more natural lighting, the better. Temperature in the room is also important, as it directly influences human performance: +22–25ºС is considered to be the most comfortable temperature. 

You should also remember about compliance with the work and rest schedule: in the ideal case, office workers shall make breaks for 8–10 minutes every hour and use this time for some physical exercises. Movement is good to keep the body in tonus and prevent muscle tightness.  

During the work at a computer it is important to take care of its position on the desk: monitors shall be at least 30–50 cm from the face to prevent eye strain. Give frequent rest to your eyes, make exercises to remove the strain. 

- In 2019, you arranged the first Safety Week for UTS employees. What conclusions can you make? Have our employees become more careful about their safety? 

- It was definitely a useful and interesting experience which once again proved that the company really cares about its employees. UTS managers and our shareholders from VINCI told about the importance of meeting safety requirements not only at the workplace, but also at home.

The employees, in return, were receptive to the event, many of them noted that it was a pleasure for them to receive small souvenirs at the end of the event, and some of them even asked for an additional light-reflecting bracelet for the child.

Absolute safety is certainly difficult to achieve, but we must always strive for excellence, and such events assist in attaining this goal.

- In the current situation, when the coronavirus pandemic is raging in the world, what measures, in addition to the basic ones, are important and necessary to follow for employees in order to protect themselves, their relatives and colleagues? 

- Now, as never before, we need to pay special attention to our health and to understand that, while maintaining our health, we thereby preserve the health of other people. I will not be original and can advise, of course, to stay at home, not to catch a cold, to dress according to the season, not to visit public places, constantly wash hands with soap and treat them with antibacterial agents. Also, it is necessary to wear a mask, it is better to wear gloves on your hands, keep a distance of one and a half meters on the street.

Since UTS belongs to the backbone companies and operates federal highways, some employees have to continue their work responsibilities on the spot. From the company’s side we are doing everything possible to protect our employees and road users. All people at their workplaces are provided with personal protective equipment in accordance with WHO recommendations, and all workplaces are regularly disinfected. We check the temperature before the work shift starts and after it ends, we keep a daily health report, in case of any symptoms, the employee immediately goes home.

However, this situation can be sustained only by the joint responsibility of the company and the people, – both employees and road users.

How long have you been working for the company? Why did you decide to work in the area of labour safety? Did you have to receive additional education? 

- I have been working for UTS since March 2012. I was a chief cashier at first, then I became a shift supervisor, housekeeping specialist, and then the management offered me the position of health and safety specialist. I had to study a lot just on the way, but of course I received training in the Centre of Labour Safety and Medicine in Voronezh and underwent re-assessment in Lipetsk.

The field of my work anticipates continuous skill enhancement, because state standards and procedures are often changed. For example, I have to undergo a regular attestation in the nearest future and then share the most up-to-date knowledge with the employees.

- Do you love your job?

- Love is perhaps a big word, but my job definitely sparks a real interest in me. When I agreed to the position I did not even imagine the entire range of tasks I would have to deal with. And it was good! The work triggers my professional development and improvement, and it is a motivation in any field.

- What helps you to take your mind off the things after a busy working day? Do you have hobbies?

I like playing chess a lot: every year I take part in contests in our regional centre. In 2018, I even managed to be the first. On weekends, my wife and I go to the swimming pool, because swimming helps to relieve stress. By the way, I recommend it to everyone!