Over 11,000 employees at Emirates Flight Catering (EKFC) in Dubai supply 225,000 meals every day to over 100 airlines including Emirates Airline. Chefs from 58 nations bring years of culinary expertise to ensure that the food eaten by you onboard the aircraft is of the highest quality.
To maintain these standards, the company puts the health and safety of its workforce at the top of the corporate agenda. As proof of its commitment, EKFC is the first airline catering unit in the world to be awarded certification for ISO 45001 – the new international occupational health and safety standard – following a five-day audit by a team of independent assessors from global safety assurance business, LRQA.
Simon Reat, Assistant Vice President of EKFC’s Quality, Health, Safety and Environment team explains: “The health and safety of our employees has always been of paramount importance to us, not just as a department but also to the leadership team. However, there is always room to improve and focusing on the requirements of ISO 45001 encouraged us to launch several initiatives internally to create a culture where everyone took responsibility for ensuring a safe and sustainable working environment.”
The initiatives put employees at every level at the heart of the project, with discussions, meetings and presentations from senior and middle management.
“We wanted to hear thoughts and opinions from every department and we made a commitment to keeping everyone informed, not just management,” continued Simon. “It was about explaining why we wanted to focus on these things - why we needed to look at hazard analysis, why we should collaborate and participate; why we needed a framework to make sure we’re all responsible for health and safety. Once you explain the ‘why’, people more naturally understand and feel involved.”
The approach was a cultural shift for the business as Simon explains: “It was challenging but really exciting at the same time. The initiatives really helped our employees embrace the positive safety culture. And those people who weren’t immediately on board because they thought they would have to work longer or harder were pleasantly surprised. Our ‘My safety, my reason’ campaign which focuses on the behaviours we demonstrate around safety – and the impact that has on us, our families and our colleagues – has been hugely successful. The My Safety, my reason campaign came from Divya Menon the Workplace Safety Manager at EKFC.
“People are genuinely excited - we’ve been stopped in the corridors by people saying what a positive effect this has had and we’re dealing with so many enquiries from colleagues wanting to know more. It’s more work for us, but well worth it to see everyone so engaged.”
ISO 45001 has been developed as the world’s first international occupational health and safety management system standard which aims to prevent incidents at work.. With a focus on mitigating risk and improving health and safety performance, ISO 45001 helps companies focus on ensuring a safer working environment and a healthier workforce.
Simon continues: “For us, the audit was a test of how successful our initiatives had been. We asked the assessors to come in without telling anyone internally including the safety team as a test of our day-to-day practices, to see if we were performing well 24/7, not just at the time of the audit. We asked them not to tell us what we were good at, but how we could make improvements. We were nervous but it turned out to be an absolute pleasure of an experience working with an organisation like LRQA. The assessors were really switched on – they understood our business and the sector we work in and they share our passion for health and safety management systems that really work.”
Yazan Al Huhhud, lead assessor at LRQA said: “ISO 45001 was launched less than a year ago. It features a lot of the areas previously covered in OHSAS 18001 but with additional elements such as creating a supply chain framework which drives a positive health and safety culture. Achieving ISO 45001 certification less than a year after the standard was launched is a clear indication of the commitment of EKFC to both their employees and their customers.”
Simon concluded: “Now we’ve been certified, I’ve no doubt other companies will look to do the same. To those considering it, I really would recommend using LRQA – they offer a high quality, high value service and we are confident ISO 45001 will lead to a return on investment by driving positive behavioural changes within our organisation.”