3 min

Hazards, heights and health: how Kiwa keeps employees safe

Climbing high scaffolding, working with hazardous chemicals and inspecting busy highways are potentially dangerous activities – and ones that Kiwa inspectors face frequently. Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) are priorities for us at Kiwa, and we consider it critical to ensure people’s safety at work.

Helena Louhelainen, HSE Manager (Authorized Safety Manager – level A, or ASM-A) at Kiwa Finland, is responsible for the health and safety of employees in the country. “Kiwa employees work in all kinds of environments,” she said. “Some inspect big columns where there can be hazardous chemicals or a lack of oxygen, some work at heights and others on big roads. Risk assessment is very important in all these situations. We need to understand what the risks are in each environment, then provide the right safety equipment to protect employees.”

In Finland, every company is legally required to have an Occupational Safety and Health Manager and, in workplaces that regularly employ at least 20 people, an Occupational Safety and Health Committee. Helena has the role of Occupational Safety and Health Manager for Kiwa Finland, and she sits on the Committee.

“The person in this role and the committee need to work together with the employees and develop the company’s occupational health and safety action plan,” Helena said.

Helena works with managers and supervisors, who are directly responsible for their team members’ health and safety at work. An important aspect of the role is working with other people responsible for different aspects of safety at Kiwa, including the Quality Manager and Information Security Manager. “Together we ensure safety as a whole, not just occupational safety.”

Building on an interest in protecting people

Helena has always had an interest in people’s safety, although it didn’t mean she always imagined being an HSE Manager. “When I was younger, my dream job was a kindergarten teacher,” she said. “Someone recently told me that we often find ourselves in a career that is related to our childhood dream. I thought about this, and my current job really doesn’t differ much from that of a kindergarten teacher. I work to ensure that no one injures their knee, that they wear the necessary protective clothing, and that their environment is healthy and safe. That’s really my aim: to keep people healthy and safe.”

Helena has an MSc in environmental engineering and was already very interested in occupational safety issues during her degree. She studied occupational safety management and risk management, and her thesis was on chemical exposure in hazardous waste treatment. Before joining Kiwa, she worked as a supervisor at an environmental services company for more than 10 years. She joined Kiwa in September 2016.

“At Kiwa we face all sorts of issues, and my job is mostly about making the environment safe, including determining what kind of safe equipment needs to be used and what we need to do to prevent accidents. We carry out detailed risk assessments, and we collect data about any accidents that do happen.”

A commitment to everyone’s health and safety

With the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing, the context in which Helena manages health and safety has changed, though this hasn’t had much of an impact on her work. “At the beginning, we had to cancel in-person meetings with external partners we work with, but we have since adjusted to online meetings, like everyone.”

For the Kiwa inspectors who benefit from Helena’s guidance, the demand for inspections has continued through the pandemic – as have the safety risks. “Of course, everyone is wearing a mask now, but there is still work that needs to be done,” Helena said. “Elevators need to be checked so that people can use them safely, for example, and without inspections, there could be an increased risk of accidents.”

Pandemic aside, the context in which businesses operate is always changing, but Helena expects health and safety to remain vital in the future. “How we take care of our occupational health and safety is very important to our clients. They want to be sure that whoever works at or visits their premises, uses their equipment, or buys their products and services is not at risk. More broadly, safe and healthy work is a sustainability issue – it affects us all. For that reason, I am also a member of the CSR Council.”

Helena feels she is doing significant and important work that enables Kiwa to offer our customers the most reliable solutions with the best service. After all, it’s the people working at Kiwa who deliver the service, so they need a safe and sustainable workplace.

“We need to be able to trust that after a day of work we can go home healthy and well,” Helena said. “We have to care about each other and take care of safe working conditions and well-being at work. And as members of society, we must be able to trust that all machinery, equipment in public spaces and facilities are safe for all its users.”