Steps to Achieving Better Safety in the Cement Industry

By Mark Doyle, Founder & Principal Consultant, IntSaf - International Safety

Often, people who work with cement do not fully appreciate the hazardous environment they work in every day. After all, it’s not like oil and gas... there’s less likelihood of a catastrophic explosion, but the cement industry is no stranger to fatal incidents.

The manufacture and distribution of cement is a high-risk enterprise but creating a safe work environment in the cement industry is achievable.

There are many hazards in the cement industry, with the 3 main causes of fatalities being[1]:

  1. Traffic & Mobile Plant
  2. Falls from heights & falling objects
  3. Moving/Starting Equipment.

Some of the other more serious hazards include working in confined spaces, with hot material, near water, with heavy lifts/loads, with hazardous and dangerous materials and in dusty and noisy environments

There are several key factors to achieving sustainable safety in the cement industry:

  • Establishing Safety Policy, Standards & Safety Rules
  • Implementing a Safety Improvement Plan
  • Employing Managers who:
    • Lead safety
    • Understand site safety risks and issues
    • Promptly address issues
    • Support supervisors
    • Openly recognise good performance and contributions
    • Regularly discuss safety with employees, contractors and supervisors
    • Ensure supervisors understand site safety management systems
    • Ensure there are sufficient personnel and resources to meet safety requirements
    • Ensure there is no compromise of safety standards

It is critical also to ensure the site’s management system is designed to manage these risks. This can be achieved by:

  • Increasing awareness and ensuring all workers are aware of the hazards in their workplace.
  • Identifying areas where there is uncertainty about safety. It’s always good to wonder what if...
  • Implementing controls to eliminate risk, or if elimination is not possible, reduce the risk to as low as is reasonably practicable.
  • Monitoring implementation by inspecting & auditing controls to ensure they’re working as expected.
  • Ensuring spare parts are available and preventative maintenance checklists are updated so that safety isn’t compromised if a control fails or not maintained.
  • Ensuring operating procedures and training materials are updated
  • And repeat
fig 1 harness
Fig. 1 Training workers on how to properly inspect & don a harness.
fig 2 lockout
Fig. 2 Lockout devices to protect users against energised equipment.

So, what can be done to improve safety and reduce the top three causes of accidents in the cement industry? 

One simple exercise that can be conducted to reduce risks from traffic and mobile plant is to assemble a cross-functional team to identify all pedestrian/vehicle interactions, assess the risk and agree on controls, and install measures such as hard barricades, traffic flow and designated pedestrian zones.

Similarly, to improve safety at heights, a team can be assembled to conduct a site survey. Be sure to include both production and maintenance team members. Often, work at heights can be eliminated through engineering controls and these should be given priority.

To address hazards in moving/starting equipment, ensure that such equipment is guarded, and that isolation and lockout devices are available.


If we continue to focus our efforts on thinking about what might go wrong on our sites and continually implement sustainable controls to eliminate and reduce the risk, we will improve not only safety on site, but increase productivity and efficiency. Another positive by-product will be increased morale amongst workers.

A caution for everyone though, is to be mindful that other sites in the cement business such as warehouses, quarries, terminals, logistics and other small facilities often have difficulty implementing the required safety standards due to remoteness of locations, lack of resources and training. It is worth considering establishing simplified systems for these smaller sites so that they are not burdened with “over-safety”.  

If you would like to discuss safety in cement, please drop us a line. We’re happy to help.

Stay Safe.

Mark Doyle

IntSaf - International Safety

[1] WBCSD, 2004