On the spot: Olivier Bollen, On-Site Safety Specialist

On the spot: Olivier Bollen, On-Site Safety Specialist

Safety is a top priority at H.Essers. That’s why most of our sites have dedicated safety specialists who are responsible for ensuring the safety of high-risk zones, organising training sessions, and serving as the primary point of contact for employees, visitors, safety stewards and third parties. Meet Olivier Bollen, the safety specialist at our Dry Port Genk location.

Olivier holds a degree in chemistry and previously worked in several chemical labs. At H.Essers, however, he is putting his academic background to very different use. ‘Theoretical knowledge is not a job requirement, but my background helps me brainstorm about possible solutions and approaches,’ explains Olivier. ‘As a safety specialist at Dry Port, one of H.Essers largest Seveso sites, I ensure the safety of chemical goods and their packaging.’

Promoting a culture of safety

Olivier started working at H.Essers in the summer of 2020 and was initially hired for a sample room project at Dry Port. ‘The project involved repackaging chemical products, which had to be done in-house at Dry Port. I organised several training sessions and headed up the project in close collaboration with the engineering and prevention specialists. Towards the end of the project, I saw a vacancy for a safety specialist and applied immediately. I really enjoyed working at H.Essers and wanted to contribute to the safety culture here.’

Rapid growth

Olivier still organises training sessions, but also has other tasks and responsibilities, such as overseeing the safety procedures, conducting risk assessments, and brainstorming about prevention measures. ‘It’s a full-time job at a fast-growing location. Three facilities have been built in the past two years alone and the site continues to expand. With a total of six facilities, I definitely get my steps in every day,’ he says, smiling. Olivier tasks include helping the on-site managers ensure the safety of chemical goods, supervising the first aid and first response teams, ensuring that cargo is properly secured, following up on incidents and near-misses, conducting risk assessments, and managing the emergency procedures. Dry Port largely stores and processes pharmaceutical and chemical goods, which is why the buildings must be Seveso-certified. ‘Almost all of my training courses relate to the sample room,’ explains Olivier. ‘I also discuss work in a practical way with all those involved. The employees don’t have to understand the theory, but they do have to know the risks and the safety measures.’

Active support

Most people who work at Dry Port will have seen Olivier before. ‘My job is pretty diverse,’ he says. ‘I walk around the entire site and serve as a practical point of contact for everyone here. I support the safety stewards, who are responsible for making people aware of safety procedures, and try to deploy them as efficiently as possible. My job also involves making sure all employees and third parties comply with the work agreements. I also carry out audits and inspections and serve as a link between the H.Essers prevention department and the employees. The prevention service supports me and I support them. It’s a relatively new site that functions smoothly, but there’s always room for improvement. It’s a highly rewarding and satisfying job.’

Knowledge transfer

Olivier often collaborates with Cedric, our Safety Specialist at the Winterslag site. ‘Our goal is to create as much uniformity as possible across the sites,’ explains Olivier. ‘Together we monitor important safety issues and learn from each other’s successes. We’re supported in this by Bruno Gastmans from the Wilrijk site, who has many years of safety experience. The results look promising so far and I expect we will be training new colleagues based on what we’ve learned, so that all sites can have their own dedicated Safety Specialist. This will help make the workplace even safer.’