Feb 12
EVERY TIME 37-year-old Mr Ramashray Chaubey (name changed) took the mechanised pulley-enabled metal rig up to the higher floors of an under-construction housing tower in Mumbai, his belly would tighten. Beads of perspiration would break out on his forehead, even though it would be cool ‘up there’. And he would say a silent prayer.
“I would be a nervous wreck on the 40th floor. My head would spin because of my fear of heights and my knees would go weak. I would often feel like throwing up,” he says in recalling the frightening moments when he was working at the tower that L&T Construction built a few years ago. And then L&T-NxT came up with a wonder plan: a sophisticated gizmo that would make workers such as Mr Chaubey feel they were ring-fenced by invisible “hands” and give them the sense that they were not on higher floors but at the ground level.
The safety-screen is a hydraulic climbing system across three levels of a structure that prevents workmen from seeing the heights at which they are working and shields them from the buffeting of strong winds. Introduced at the Omkar 1973 site in Mumbai’s Worli, the safety-screen initiative has since been replicated at all high-rise building projects of L&T.
“The safety-screen not only saved lives but also ensured efficiency,” Mr Chaubey says now, flashing a smile. Besides the safety-screen, L&T Construction has evolved a few more innovative processes and mechanisms – many of those powered by digital technologies – that are ensuring high safety standards at all its sites.
The Rope & Suspended Platform (RSP) is one such innovation. This was specifically devised while building the Statue of Unity (SoU) – the world’s tallest statue – to manage welding the bronze panels and work on the weld points on the gigantic statue’s steel superstructure. Since the slopes on SoU’s external surface were inaccessible for both cranes and scaffoldings, two RSPs were installed for the workmen.
Then there is the SAG Bridge. First introduced by L&T Power Transmission & Distribution arm at a project in West Malaysia, it was later on replicated across projects for stringing. SAG Bridge involves a suspended bridge parallelly placed with the rough sag of the conductors on which fitters could work safely without having to hang from poles several meters above ground.
Third, the steps that L&T's Mauritius Metro project team took to ensure safety on roads where vehicles’ average speed was 110 kmph included, double-layer safety catch nets, lance closures, temporary traffic diversions and power shutdowns for protection from overhead high-tension lines. Then there is a dedicated mobile app named Safety. Launched in 2016, it has some 18,000+ users, covering 700+ projects cumulatively registering some 300,000 engagements per month. There are other apps such as ViewEHS and Ib4u that are used by specific wings of L&T Construction.
In fact, an entire menu of digital solutions has been devised to keep workmen and on-site engineers safe from potentially hazardous situations. These include the application of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), track and trace incidents for an entire range of project sites and shop-floors, among other locations. These solutions not only digitally track locations but also take corrective and preventive action in the event a dangerous situation arises. Developed by the L&T-NxT team, these digitalised mechanisms help reassure workers and prevent untoward incidents even in high-risk operations such as construction.
Not just at L&T Construction, digitalisation of safety is the buzzword across all L&T entities – be it L&T Hydrocarbon Engineering (LTHE), L&T Heavy Engineering (HE), L&T Power, L&T Defence or L&T Construction & Mining Machinery (L&TCMM). And much of the Group’s safety standards and practices emerge from its Safety Innovation School (SIS) located at Hazira in Gujarat.  Indeed, digitalising safety in L&T is the brainchild of the CEO & MD Mr S N Subrahmanyan, who believes “it is a mindset that needs to be inculcated first in oneself, followed diligently and spread vigorously to make safety a second nature for everybody”. 
Taking singular pride that the SoU (in Gujarat) and the Medigadda Barrage (in Telangana) mega projects were executed “without a single fatality”, he underscores: “Planning teams have been impressed upon to consider risk reduction, hazard elimination and safe execution as critical criteria”.
“Digitalisation is the vital edge we enjoy, and digital tools can make the biggest impact to further improve our safety record,” Mr Subrahmanyan says. The process to devise a digitalised safety system is an on-going one, and over the years L&T has added various functionalities to make it progressively robust. In fact, the safety checklist is mandatory and begins at the start of work across L&T sites.
The progress achieved so far in digitalising the Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) initiatives and processes at L&T is dovetailed with the conglomerate’s ‘Mission Zero Harm’. A pyramidal ‘structure’ best describes L&T’s approach to ensuring high EHS standards. At the tip are sensors, beacons, fatigue detection mechanisms, gas detectors and fume extractors among others.
The next level (workmen tracking) constitutes alerts on entry into hazardous zones, followed by the activation of mobile apps (process compliance) that capture checklists and work permits, while the base of the pyramid (awareness/education) is about immersive training with VR. Beginning with safety awareness and training using an innovative, immersive experience of AR and VR, the use of experiential films at project sites leaves a lasting and powerful impact on workers as regards the need to practice safe methods at work.
“Safety at sites starts with awareness, attitude and training, which together constitute good practices. We have created a number of films on AR and VR. No less than 40 modules have been devised for multiple scenarios and some of these are in combination with AR. In fact, immersive VR films are administered to participants at every project site,” says Mr Anantha Sayana, the Chief Digital Officer at L&T.
The simple three-minute modules, with voice-narrative in the local language, are delivered over VR gear to the workers without the need for any complex technical infrastructure. The modules encompassing various types of work – at heights, in confined spaces, fire safety, material handling, etc. – have been developed and put on a variety of VR gear like Oculus Go, Rift and HTC Vive. This has become a standard process as part of the daily toolbox talk, resulting in over 60,000 workers been trained on these modules so far.
At L&T Hydrocarbon Engineering (LTHE), for instance, job-specific mock drills have been evolved and institutionalised by creating real-time situations to improve awareness and emergency preparedness.
In 2020, as many as 177 mock drills and 504 HSE (health, safety & environment) campaigns and promotional events were conducted across LTHE project sites. More importantly, 15,879 safety training programmes were also conducted.
A foolproof worker-tracking system at LTHE’s offshore platforms led to developing an IOT digital system in deck-elevation wise of an oil platform to track and monitor workers. For those working in confined-space atmospheres, fume-extractor systems are used for proper ventilation. While a digital solution using electronic systems is envisaged for digitalising permits at work sites from initiation to closure, VR glasses used in training the workers offer a real-time, three-dimensional view of HSE practices even when the workers are not present at project sites.
At L&T Defence, while the thrust is on causing ‘Zero Harm’, there is also a ‘Wellness Index’ that measures the degree of happiness the vertical creates, which is besides how much money it makes and how much it returns to nature. More specifically, at one of L&T Defence’s project sites, where a confined-space atmosphere and tracking employees are critical for the execution and emergency response, it has developed a confined-space real-time gas monitoring mechanism along with systems to alert and track employees.
L&T Defence has plans to deploy an online inspection and audit module that will improve these processes, besides assisting in compliance of non-conforming observations with specific timelines and built-in escalation and real-time monitoring. In keeping with its focus on training, L&T Defence has conducted 901 sessions involving 7,844 personnel since operations resumed after the lockdown.
For L&T Heavy Engineering (HE), the “aim is to increase the sensitivity of the working personnel towards safety”. While a Behaviour-Based Safety programme has been revived in the 2020-21 fiscal, the reported safety concern (RSC) system is an incident prevention tool for reporting hazards. It allows all personnel to report unsafe acts or conditions. A digitalised reporting system on a smart device helps increase user-friendliness and therefore reporting.
Over the past two years, several efforts to digitalise the EHS process at HE include the introduction of an online ‘permit to work system’, ‘reported safety concern’, ‘temporary override of safety critical control’ and ‘safety inspection system’. This has helped to monitor the process effectiveness, trend analysis and reduction of non-value-added activities. While the main focus at HE stays on high-risk activities such as pressure tests, scaffolding and electrical safety and material handling, EHS training remains a continuous process focusing on 25 different topics which includes standard training module, induction and high-risk activities such as working at heights, confined spaces, material handling, pressure testing and learning from incidents.
As regards L&T Construction & Mining Machinery (L&TCMM), to deepen and strengthen EHS best practices, it has walked a step further, creating SAFAL (Safe & Accident Free Always) – a portal enhanced with exclusive features and which can be accessed from web browsers at project sites. It has the provision for making data entry, viewing EHS management documents and performance analysis.
L&TCMM has also evolved ‘best practices’ by studying several other corporate entities before creating guidelines for its workforce. These include EHS performance monitoring, haul road safety, working at heights, simulator training, work permit system, personal risk assessment, audit and safety inspection, resource conservation and carbon footprint and health monitoring among others.
This year L&TCMM has plans to improve its systems to capture and communicate incidents, seek ISO 45001 and ISO 14001 certifications for its service centres, improve effectiveness of training and competence by deploying VR gadgets, strengthen roles and responsibilities and consequent management procedures and, importantly, organise site visits by L&T’s senior management for audit checks.
Digitalisation is the name of the game today to ensure high EHS standards, and the various digital solutions for safety adopted by all these L&T verticals have definitely improved awareness and compliance.
“These measures have also enabled proper recording of all activities and incidents. Reviews are conducted using this data. Every process is digitalised in the form of apps. Since January 2016, digitalisation is part of all that we do in L&T,” the Chief Digital Officer sums up.
Feb 12
Mission 0 Harm
Mission 0 Harm
SEEKING to further L&T’s Environment Health & Safety (EHS) philosophy across the company, CEO & MD Mr S N Subrahmanyan last year set up an EHS Council, chaired by Mr Subramanian Sarma (Whole-time Director & Sr EVP – Energy). It has members representing all L&T businesses.
The Council’s mandate is to analyse past incidents and recommend solutions to place the Company firmly on the path of EHS excellence. As part of a wider roll-out programme, the Council, in December, presented its key findings and recommendations through a rich webinar – Recommitting to Mission Zero Harm. Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOCL), a key customer of L&T, participated in the webinar with its chairman Mr S M Vaidya delivering the keynote address as the guest of honour. 
Several other senior IOCL officials who attended the event include Mr S K Awasthi (Executive Director HSE, Corporate Office), Mr Suresh Chopra (Executive Director-in-Charge, Projects), Mr Ravindra Garg (Executive Director, HSE Marketing, Head Office), Mr L N Phukan (Chief General Manager, HSE Refinery HQ) and Mr M R Dwibedy (Chief General Manager, HSE Pipeline HQ).
Addressing the company-wide audience of L&T-ites committed to a greener and safer future, Mr Sarma stated that the Council’s recommendations are well-researched and will enable L&T to continue to deliver project excellence by maintaining the highest EHS standards. He appealed to the audience to embrace the recommended practices and continue to promote a stronger EHS culture.
Mr Subrahmanyan shared his vision for EHS in L&T, emphasising that successful EHS is the result of well-thought-out, well-planned, well-executed strategy – and requires discipline, focus, and sensitivity towards creating a safe work-culture of zero-tolerance for unsafe practices.Underlining the importance that L&T leaders attach to EHS, Mr Subrahmanyan said: “We are all safety stewards. Every employee is an EHS officer and should possess the attitude and approach of one”.  
He welcomed the increasingly important role of technology, training and communication as safety enablers.  Finally, he advised all to learn from the best global EHS organisations and even exceed their standards. “In the final analysis”, he concluded, “our safety is our responsibility”.
Delivering the keynote address, Mr Vaidya highlighted the importance of EHS in business operations.  He elaborated upon the challenges faced by the industry and how IOCL has played an important role in overcoming these challenges, including maintaining the supply of the essential cooking gas across the country, despite the pandemic situation.  
Mr Vaidya stressed upon the need of the entire workforce to be totally involved in safety aspects, fostered by a culture of collaboration, trust and joint problem-solving.  Quoting safety expert Eleanor Everett, he said: “Safety is not a gadget, but it is a state of mind. It can be achieved at Zero Harm level with the active support of the top management, genuine involvement of the middle management and whole-hearted cooperation of all the stakeholders.”
He spoke of the ongoing global trends in energy transition and its favourable impact on the environment. Elaborating upon how India’s energy will evolve with all sources of energy co-existing, he spoke on the increasing role IOCL is playing in green energy and bio-fuel fields. Mr Vaidya commended L&T’s role as a vital construction partner in IOCL’s projects and nation-building.  He appreciated L&T’s COVID precautions at IOCL’s Paradip refinery. Complimenting L&T for setting up the EHS Council, he wished this crucial endeavour every success.
Interesting Q&A sessions during the webinar enlightened the audience with insights from L&T’s ECom members. Presentations by EHS Council members offered a panoply of ideas and views on hot-button issues and challenges in organisational safety, and the implications of EHS discipline on business performance.

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