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Dutch Safety Day: Active exchange leads to better mutual understanding at all levels

The offshore renewable energy industry poses several unique risks and challenges, which is why health and safety forms the cornerstone of every job we undertake at Deutsche Windtechnik. In addition to its periodic refresher courses for technicians working at the wind farms, Deutsche Windtechnik’s Dutch subsidiary has now held a company-wide safety day to share, refresh and recalibrate their perspective on safety. One particular highlight was the personal insight into the safety routine of an ex-military helicopter pilot.

“This is the first time we’ve held a dedicated safety day in the Netherlands with interaction between office and field workers,” said Jan Boelen, Offshore Service Technician. After sailing to the historic “Forteiland” in the Dutch port of IJmuiden, the colleagues from Deutsche Windtechnik B.V. began the day with an interactive presentation and discussion, led by HSE Coordinators, Gerke Hoekstra and Niek de Jonge. Posing questions such as “What do you find dumb or dangerous about your work?” provoked an in-depth discussion about the necessity for certain procedures from a variety of viewpoints and highlighted areas for future improvements. “The Dutch team is constantly growing, projects are increasing in size, and teams change from time to time,” said Gerke Hoekstra. “The aim of this event is to reflect a sense of unity and hear different perspectives on working together to ensure a safe working environment. Nobody can see an issue from all angles, so this is a chance to hear opinions from all areas of the company, from technicians in the field to senior management.” Rather than limiting the event to front-line technicians, all members of staff were welcome to join in, network with colleagues with whom they were less familiar, learn more about the wider workings of the organisation and of course, broaden awareness of everyone’s responsibilities in ensuring safety in the workplace. “This was a good day to make people stop and think,” said Youssef Seddouki, Dispatcher based in the Utrecht office. “When discussing risks that not everyone faces, you might learn something that comes in very valuable someday.”

Sharing values and experience across industries

The day continued with a presentation from Dominique Schreinemacher, an ex-military helicopter pilot who recounted occasions where her safety and survival (and that of the rest of her team) were ensured only through the trust and cooperation of everyone aboard. This led into an exhilarating team-building exercise where colleagues tackled military-style challenges that could only be solved through good cooperation and safety thinking. “The mix of talking about safety and the practical challenge really sticks in my mind. A safety culture starts with the overall mindset, not with the details,” said Thomas Schäffer, Project Manager for one of the Dutch projects, who works in Bremen, Germany. Building morale and team awareness are also important steps towards cultivating a positive safety culture in the company.

On reflection, the Safety Day offered a great opportunity to bring together a team that is usually spread over multiple sites throughout the Netherlands. On top of strengthening their mutual relations, they returned from the event with refreshed perspectives of where our main points of attention should be to ensure everyone’s safety, plus some clear conclusions on how to improve communication and the handling of HSE-related issues in the future. “What we accomplished today with this team could not have been achieved with hours and hours of classroom training,” said Geert Timmers, Managing Director of Deutsche Windtechnik B.V. “I’ve heard enthusiastic colleagues sharing their experiences, and I’ve also witnessed some frank conversations between field- and office-based colleagues about work preparation. No conventional meeting would have brought us to this point so quickly and so effectively. I think we should definitely keep the Safety Day in our diaries moving forward.”

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