Strange brew: Carlsberg’s Covid puzzle

In the early months of the pandemic, as the bars and restaurants in most countries were either shuttered by government order or largely deserted by customers scared to congregate, production volumes at Carlsberg’s brewing plants declined. But according to the group’s outgoing VP Group Health and Safety Luiz Montenegro, the drop in demand created a safety puzzle.

“While reduced volumes and workload should imply a reduction of exposure to risk,” Luiz says, “we wondered why the reduction in incident rates was far more drastic than the reduction in business activities”.

To find out what Luiz believes caused the disproportionate fall in injury rates you will have to read his chapter in One Percent Safer. But it’s not giving too much away to say he thinks it is a consequence of the way people react to extraordinary circumstances.

The One Percent Safer movement aims to support practitioners in improving workplace safety locally, to move the needle in reducing accidents globally, we asked Luiz for his thoughts on what safety and health practitioners could do to encourage the higher levels of risk awareness and control that can push incident rates down.

He offered the following key lessons, from the first stage of the pandemic.
– Compliance to rules is easier when people understand WHY. During training and coaching tours (safety walks) we must always reinforce the purpose of rules and standards, but not in generic terms like “it’s for your own safety”, but specific to the rule/standard.

– Significance of purpose drives commitment and engagement, therefore we shall always maintain focus on the most important standards – those that are life saving and those related to the most prevalent risks of the workplace.

– We shall drive the use of some operational safety tools and practices to maintain the increased level of awareness and focus on task – eg job planning, quick risk assessments, permit-to-work and root cause analysis are great ways to enable risk awareness and focus on task, and they are also great ways of practice learning.

– Leadership style matters! During the first peak of the pandemic, managers were mostly absent from the workplace and had to use a different style, based on trust, collaboration and support. Team leaders were empowered with accountability and workers felt direct responsibility for their actions and decisions, and cared not only for them but for their fellow colleagues.

– Keeping this spirit of collaboration, responsibility and caring attitude would certainly shorten the time to evolve the safety culture to the interdependent level.
Luiz’s advice deftly combines two of the themes that recur most frequently in One Percent Safer’s 142 chapters: the importance of clear leadership and the need to respect and empower the people doing the work to manage the minute-to-minute risks.

All the profits from the book go to support people in the OSH profession disadvantaged by the economic consequences of the Covid crisis. You can buy it – and join the movement – here.

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