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Trinidad and Tobago, PowerGen and Marubeni officials during the virtual ceremony in which PowerGen was presented with the Global Safety Award recently.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, PowerGen has been able to top 45 other countries to lift the Marubeni Corporation’s Safety Award of Excellence.

The Safety Award of Excellence 2020 was presented during a virtual ceremony on July 7 held simultaneously in Trinidad and Tobago and Japan, Marubeni said in a media release.

The handover was done by Hiroshi Tachigami, the general manager of Marubeni Power business in the Americas, Europe and Australia.

Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dr Amery Browne and Japan’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Trinidad and Tobago Tatsuo Hirayama witnessed the presentation.

Browne commended Marubeni for conferring the award during the pandemic period.

“It is a testament to the strong cooperation and partnership between Japan and T&T that we continue to have strong links between the private sector and the public sector,” Browne said.

In presenting the award, Tachigami noted, “The safety management standards of PowerGen are clearly among the best in the world. I must commend the entire team, from management to field workers, for implementing and meeting such demanding safety benchmarks.”

He added, “What we have learned is that while protocols are needed to stay safe, much of the success comes down to culture and values – particularly discipline and concern for others. The Safety Award of Excellence 2020 shows that these values and this attitude are very much part of the culture of PowerGen.”

PowerGen was able to continue providing a reliable supply of electricity to T&T while mitigating any spread of the virus within the company’s plants during the past 15 months of the pandemic, which included a huge part of 2020.

In addressing the achievement, Romney Thomas, chairman of PowerGen’s board of directors, said, “Upon my appointment as chairman of PowerGen in January of this year, in the midst of a raging pandemic, the focus was on safety as an intrinsic part of PowerGen’s core operations.”

The Marubeni Corporation, which has a 39 per cent stake in PowerGen, jointly owns over 45 power companies globally. Marubeni Caribbean Power Holdings Inc. has partnered with PowerGen since 2007.

Between 2016 and 2019, the company averaged 2,000 hours of safety training hours, increasing this to over 7,000 hours in 2020 when pandemic protocols had to be put in place. In 2016, when PowerGen’s safety programme was formally launched, eight HSE field inspections were done. By 2020, 184 such inspections were conducted.

“This state-of-the-art safety programme was based on one fundamental principle, developed by the Marubeni Corporation,” explained Damian Obiglio, senior vice-president for Marubeni Power International.

“Align corporate responsibility with individual responsibility. We trust our employees and we trust our systems. When employees buy into the system, we get excellence in all areas. In this particular area – safety – such trust and such planning has saved lives and limbs.”

The release said PowerGen recognised that enhancement of safety had to be based on an ongoing safety partnership between management and employees. This allowed for the reporting of potential and actual hazards identified by employees, exemplifying full enrolment and engagement in PowerGen’s safety culture with Marubeni.

Speaking to the link between the two companies, PowerGen general manager Surindranath Ramsingh said, “Since our relationship commenced, we have had the benefit of being a recipient of Marubeni’s vast international experience and this, combined with our local talent, has made us a top-notch organisation in Trinidad and Tobago.”

Mo Majeed, Marubeni Power International Incorporated COO and managing director of their Caribbean operations, added, “Having worked closely with PowerGen for over 20 years, I have personally witnessed the significant improvement in all aspects of the Health and Safety programmes.”

Majeed also noted that Health, Safety and Environmental (HSE) protection was not a matter of profits. “In fact, it is a cost to the organisation,” he said to the guests attending the virtual ceremony.

“As an industrial company, PowerGen has always put the safety of employees first and foremost. This award confirms its success in this regard.”

Ramsingh observed that close and amicable cooperation between management and workers led to significant increases in the safety walk-downs, reporting of near misses and completed training hours.

“Our safety motto is ‘Safety begins with you and it is everyone’s responsibility,’” explained Daren Jadoo, head of Health, Safety, Security and Environment at PowerGen.

“That has worked for us in PowerGen and, in these pandemic times, it is also a principle that can help us beat the COVID-19 virus.”