Looking to build a stronger HSES culture? Start from the ground up
When it comes to workplace culture and worksite safety – how do we get from sandal-wearing to the use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)? From informal carpools to journey management planning? And from scattered feedback to a robust grievance mechanism?

Colin Liu, InfraCo Asia’s HSES Manager, advocates a ground-up approach to building a culture where health and safety is the top priority.

Bringing to life pioneering infrastructure in South and Southeast Asia is a highly rewarding mandate that comes with its own unique set of challenges. Part of InfraCo Asia’s role as an early-stage investor and developer is ensuring that the projects we work on are developed to international standards and IFC Performance Standards right from the outset – and this includes the PIDG Health, Safety, Environment & Social (HSES) standards.
What stands out about the HSES practice at InfraCo Asia and across PIDG companies is the recognition that each geography and every project will require solutions that take into consideration both the cultural context and the prevailing operating environment.
These factors – such as gendered roles, the state of worker rights, regulatory requirements and the availability of professional services – form a baseline which InfraCo Asia builds upon to raise technical, performance and HSES standards. This is the starting point for the responsible development of high-quality projects that put safety first, provide employment opportunities, and improve access to basic infrastructure for underserved populations in the region.
The PIDG Life-Saving rules and Safeguarding rules, which are derived from the PIDG HSES Framework and recognised Good International Industry Practices (GIIP), are an example of how PIDG companies are helping to make international HSES standards easy-to-access for partners and contractors who may be operating in places with less-developed professional services industries, and where extra effort may be required to raise awareness for HSES considerations.
Workers on the Kota Grain Mandi project discussing the PIDG Life-Saving Rules which have been put up on the project site.
The Life-saving and Safeguarding rules provide a snapshot of topmost considerations to account for when working on a PIDG-related project. Whenever possible, they are translated into local languages to increase transparency and user-friendliness.
Rule sets are just one of the approaches InfraCo Asia uses to align with our partners on HSES requirements. We are also heavily invested in ensuring that the necessary HSES management policies, procedures, checklists and other tools are set up for each project company across our many projects and joint ventures. To this end, we draw up HSES management templates and work with external consultants to build capacity, competency, and create robust HSES management systems.
While HSES management systems, toolkits and rule sets lay the foundation for safe and healthy project implementation, I firmly believe that it is the people and culture that are equipped with these systems, that will ultimately determine the success of their applications.
In addition to the points described above, we’ve learned that a few key principles can go a long way in shaping a ground-up safety culture that is focused on implementing high HSES standards, in a way that goes beyond a process-driven, rule-making exercise:
1. Promote ownership of HSES values
HSES values must be embedded within a strong safety culture. At InfraCo Asia, we’ve put in place fortnightly, all-hands ‘Safety moments’ sharing sessions led by team members. Safety moments bring to life the PIDG Life-Saving and Safeguarding rules through the sharing of personal and project experiences that carry a strong health and safety message. Risk mitigation measures are researched and included in each presentation. As a result, each time the InfraCo Asia team gathers in full, it is an opportunity to put health and safety considerations at the front of everyone’s minds. This practice drives home the message that each person plays a key role in instilling a focus on the everyday importance of safety.
2. Enable collaborative problem-solving
InfraCo Asia’s Annual Risk and Compliance Training (ACT) programme is a long-running set of capacity-building workshops that brings together InfraCo Asia with its various partners and developer teams to raise awareness of risk, compliance, and HSES-related topics, as well as discuss best practices. HSES workshops have become a mainstay of the ACT programme each year and have helped promote an ever more collaborative culture in which InfraCo Asia and its partners problem-solve together. This is especially crucial given that we rely upon high-trust relationships to navigate the higher-risk jurisdictions in which we operate – a point of particular emphasis within the context of COVID-19 response measures.
InfraCo Asia’s HSES workshops comprise scenario-based knowledge tests and exercises which create a safe space for collaborative problem-solving, and for the accumulation of lessons learnt within the controlled parameters of a simulation i.e. at no actual cost or expense to the health and safety of our team and partners.
3. Reinforcing HSES standards on the go
Apart from instilling HSES values amongst the InfraCo Asia team and our partners, we also work with project leads to deliver hands-on training on the PIDG Life-saving Rules. These sessions target project companies and their staff, and can be conducted at any point in the project lifecycle, but are especially utilised when projects are approaching the construction phase. These sessions help to strengthen a project team’s HSES culture, and ensure that the PIDG HSES standards are effectively conveyed to all employees and contractors. The goals of the training are to communicate expectations, develop individual and collective awareness of the risks we face, and enable behavioural changes that will allow for safe working conditions and the prevention of harm and fatalities.
In so doing, we are working towards a culture in which HSES considerations take centre stage, such that the health, safety and well-being of each worker remains the top priority for any project that InfraCo Asia is a part of.
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