Titan Cement, Greece: Training, ergonomics/job design, and health and safety
Titan Cement S.A., parent of the Titan Group, started in 1902. Its activities lie in the making of a range of construction materials, in sea and road transportation and related support services. With 11 production facilities in six countries, the company has an annual turnover of more than one billion euro. As well as its strong presence in Greece, Titan has expanded into the USA, south-eastern and eastern Europe, and the Middle East.
The Titan Group employs 6,000 people internationally and 1,800 in Greece. At national level, the annual rate of promotion is 2.5%–4%; the retirement rate is 1.5–2%. An age breakdown is not available but the average employee age is 46 years. In the production facilities, 97% of employees are men; in the offices, 60% are men. Overall, 53% of employees are white-collar, 6% blue-collar, and 41% are in management.
Employment is characterised by long-term service and low turnover. The annual replacement rate is 1%. Regarding education levels, 31% of employees have a master’s degree, 21% have technical qualifications, 25% are secondary school graduates, and 22% have a primary education.
The company’s human resources (HR) department promotes non-discriminatory practices through an equal opportunities policy. Dialogue with trade unions is standard practice, and pay increases for clerical and technical production employees are the result of collective bargaining.
Titan publishes an annual social report, is a founding member of the Hellenic Network for Corporate Social Responsibility, a core member of the World Business Council for sustainable development, and the first Greek company to sign the UN’s Global Compact Pledge.
Summary of the original initiative
The original initiative was a response to problems related to restructuring in the cement industry and the introduction of new technologies. It included two major strategies: self-employment and intensive training. The self-employment initiative, mainly for drivers or handlers, offered subsidised loans to buy transport and loading machines, company contracts and the opportunity to become independent contractors. Intensive training, independent of age, was essential because of new technologies and production methods in the factories. Some older workers were trained as trainers.
Titan’s HR department has an explicit policy of long-term employment and designs employees’ development with a life-course perspective. It introduced new initiatives for older workers in response to changes in the labour market. The self-employment initiative became less attractive to older workers, who were unwilling to risk setting up independently. Technological innovation became less intensive and workers adjusted more easily to learning new technologies when their overall educational level rose.
Titan established programmes for lifelong learning and training for all employees, through individual consultation. Older workers benefit from such tailor-made programmes, which consider each person’s needs and development. Because older workers are generally less educated, training helps them to catch up with their younger colleagues in this regard. Company-funded training in health and safety has continued for all workers, including contract drivers. Its success is reflected in low accident rates.
Titan has also set up pre- and post-retirement courses.
Good practice today
Both Titan and its workers consider that training is critical to the promotion of health and safety. Recognising the health risks associated with cement manufacturing (mainly dust and noise), the company, helped by staff committees, has implemented measures to improve working conditions. Thousands of hours are spent on seminars to inform workers and raise awareness.
The low frequency and gravity of industrial accidents at Titan demonstrate the effectiveness of the long-term training and combined efforts of management and workers. The safety record is particularly important for older workers whose long service exposes them to higher risk. As a member of the European network ‘Enterprise for Health’ – which fosters innovative approaches and shares best practices in the field of health and quality of life – Titan uses international industry-standard health and safety performance indicators and best practices in ergonomics. This helps to reduce hazards and risks in all operations. Examples of equipment improvements include:
- elevators and lifts to facilitate safe climbing or better access to certain production processes;
- adjustment of staircase height in all cement plants;
- rest steps;
- special protective, easy to use safety equipment, e.g. helmets, boots, etc.
These measures help to keep accident rates in Greek plants very low, and similar measures are being implemented in newly acquired plants outside Greece.
An award system rewards workers and units which meet the target of zero accidents with prizes that include trips abroad. In a competition run by the Greek National Committee during the European Week for Health and Safety at Work, the occupational health and safety committees of Titan’s Thessaloniki and Kamari plants won the second award and a recommendation, respectively, for activities designed to prevent work accidents and illness.
The company emphasises employee communication and involvement through special tools, e.g. open days, company magazines and the intranet. Workers are actively involved in decisions on health and safety either as individuals or through the works councils. Their participation in the planning of seminar programmes ensures that their experience is valued and used to promote safety. The seminars take the form of problem-solving and examining best practices.
The equal opportunities and diversity policies for training and promotion include older workers and women, though no specific policies are designed for these groups.
Titan’s HR policies have been constant, e.g. in training, and have broadened, for example, in the development of an equal opportunities policy. They apply modern management systems and policies, such as pay and benefits schemes linked to company and individual performance, career development programmes, etc.
Labour market developments have made self-employment more risky, which is mainly why Titan workers are now less inclined to avail of the self-employment initiative, though it is still available.
Modern technologies and management methods in the international arena are covered in training programmes for employees at all levels. Training includes technical and administrative methods and techniques, health and safety at work, financial management, and environmental issues.
The company has a pension programme where employees can save money and the company matches their contributions. On retirement, employees get the amount invested in their accounts, the total size of which depends on years of service and levels of savings.
Communication between the company and the trade unions is frequent and productive. Company representatives regularly meet and negotiate issues with employee representatives and, at least once a year, they agree on wage and salary levels as well as other issues relating to improving employees’ overall working conditions. Strikes on Titan-related matters are rare, though employees might take part in national strikes organised by the Trade Union Centre (TUC), the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE), on issues concerning national decisions or state labour policies.
Social workers and doctors in the workplace look after the health and well-being of employees and their families. Preventive health check-ups are offered to all employees, and these are particularly thorough for older workers. Grants to help employees meet the costs of their children’s university studies is another company initiative that benefits older workers.
Regular employee surveys to measure the impact of HR policies on employee satisfaction in five areas recently showed the following results: credibility 83%, respect 77%, fairness 70%, pride 82%, camaraderie 76%.
Contact: Evangelos Boumis, HR consultant, Tel: 210 2599142, Fax: 210 259183
Prodromos Papavasiliou, Director of HR in Greece, Tel: 210 2591452, Fax: 210 2591183
Company website: www.titan-cement.com