Safety is a non-negotiable personal commitment
INTERVIEW WITH SUCHETA GOVIL
Sucheta, what does safety mean to you personally?
Safety is a basic non-negotiable human requirement. It's no different for me, personally or professionally. Its meaning and interpretation can often vary from person to person. But ultimately, from my point of view, it's about leading and enabling others around you to lead, a untroubled, free and healthy life. And safety is the fundamental basis for this.
So it's a precious good...
Yes, absolutely. I think this is a fact that has become clear to many people, especially in the last few weeks and months. Just think about the global coronavirus pandemic, the devastating floods and fires this summer and, last but not least, the severe explosion at our partner Currenta in the Leverkusen ChemPark. All these incidents have painfully demonstrated that safety is not only a very precious ‘good’, but also it can evaporate in an instance despite our best efforts.
What does that do to you personally?
It has made me even more aware of the issue and more grateful. Most of all, I am grateful that my family and I are well protected and surrounded by people we can rely on. This is especially true here for our colleagues, for whom safety is an essential foundation of their daily work. At the same time, I have become even more aware of what it takes to ensure safety. My visits to the plants and discussions with our colleagues have also helped in this respect.
How did you experience this?
When I first joined Covestro, it quickly became very clear to me that this company takes the issue of safety for its employees, customers and partners extremely seriously and does not compromise in this respect. Safety is the unshakeable foundation of our business. By visiting our operations and exchanging views with the teams, I now directly experience how our employees live up to this commitment on a daily basis. This has made a lasting impression on me.
So fixed rules become a matter of the heart?
That's how I experienced it. In the company, we often think in terms of structures and processes and try to steer developments in a certain direction this way but even the very best systems and processes are of no use if they are not lived out and followed in everyday life. And when it comes to safety, I find time and again that it really is a matter close to the hearts of our colleagues.
How is that expressed?
One particular example that has stuck in my mind is my visit to the TDI train in Dormagen together with Klaus Schäfer. There, I spoke with Matthias Buchmann and his team and asked how their families felt about their work – and whether they were worried. He said that everyone in his team not only knows how important safety is, but also feels it. Colleagues have a very close, almost family-like bond. They look out for each other and are there for each other at all times. And that's something the colleagues also pass on to their families at home. That made a very deep impression on me.
Where do you still see potential for improvement at Covestro?
We are pursuing the vision of an accident-free company. We have already achieved a lot along this path and have a great safety record. When accidents do occur, they very often have to do with minor carelessness or deviations from our applicable rules. What I would like to see here is that we continue to promote team spirit and encourage each other on a daily basis to work together to ensure a safe working environment. After all, no one is perfect and each of us has a bad day sometimes. But that's when the team really counts!
What role does health play in this?
I am very pleased that we are drawing more and more attention to this aspect at Covestro, also with today's Safety Day. After all, mental and physical health is an important prerequisite for us to be able to work safely at all times. During the pandemic, some exciting concepts were developed that were among the finalists for the CEO Safety & Health Award. In my view, we should continue along this path.
And how did you make use of this year´s Safety Day?
For me, the Safety Day is the perfect opportunity to pause and reflect on the topics of safety and health. What's going well, where can we do even better? Are there perhaps things I can personally work on? Besides the digital platform, we have a variety of exciting opportunities around the globe to address these questions. I would also encourage everyone to talk with their colleagues about these topics. We have a clear compass: "Live health and safety. Always!" And it is up to us to follow it consistently.