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Strong Safety Practices Require Holistic Approach

Ensuring a safe work environment means far more than creating a plan and practicing it once in a while. It means taking a holistic approach that encompasses everyone.

 * By Sandy Smith *

Natural disasters. Chemical releases. Transport accidents. Most ports have plans in place to deal with these situations. But ensuring a safe work environment means far more than creating a plan and practicing it once in a while.

It means taking a holistic approach that encompasses the port authority, tenants, employees and the community. It anticipates big events as well as small ones. And it works a little bit of psychology into the safety goals.

“The basics of safety is to protect yourself,” said Dennis Martin, general manager of operations, safety and training for Port Tampa Bay. As a former sea captain and offshore oil worker, Martin knows how that simple idea of self-preservation can be extended. “If you start with that, it’s easy enough to say, ‘Let’s protect other people who are working around you. If they’re not safe, you’re not safe.’”

The port has seen that idea grow well beyond employees into tenants at the landlord port. “In my position, I can’t go into someone else’s terminal and say, ‘You’re doing this wrong.’ But we’re having a great deal of cooperation amongst everyone who works in the port,” Martin said. “They may be at each other’s throats commercially, but when it comes to safety and security, everyone is in it together.”

Creating that safety environment goes beyond covering known risks. It means planning for the unexpected – even to the extreme.

Planning and Practicing

When the Port of Corpus Christi sought StormReady designation from the National Weather Service, it only needed to fill a few gaps in its existing emergency plan. The paperwork had been approved. The port was ready to host an event touting its readiness in advance planning and in educating the public. On the day that the celebration was to occur, Danielle Hale, manager of emergency management for the port authority, joined National Weather Service counterparts in noticing a few clouds gathering off the African coast.

Within 10 days, that storm would roll ashore as a Category 4 Hurricane – Harvey – marking Corpus Christi’s first direct hit in 47 years. The port was ready, thanks to the planning in place.

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