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Using Research to Avert Disaster Before it Strikes

Using Research to Avert Disaster Before it Strikes

Without a doubt, near miss and minor incidents (NM&MI) – which are often ignored because they do not have consequential ramifications – have led to the world’s most disastrous events which have in turn resulted in huge environmental impacts, shut down of organisations and even the loss of life.
The 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill and Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster which killed near 20 000 people are some of the major events that come to mind.

It is to this end that Dan Nayager, 62, a DUT Doctor of Technology (DTech) in Business Administration soon to be graduand, investigated the impact of NM&MI on safety in the workplace. Nayager will receive his DTech degree during the University’s Management Sciences Faculty graduation ceremony on Wednesday, 22 April 2015 at the University’s Fred Crookes Sports Centre, Steve Biko Campus.

Titled: Causes of Near Miss and Minor Operating Incidents at Selected Chemical Organisations in Durban and their impact on Key Functional Areas, Nayager’s research review of global literature, especially in the chemical sector, found that research in NM&MI is limited as it is regarded as a nuisance and is given less importance as a result. Generally, according to the research, major incidents are investigated more extensively.
“I have worked for over thirty years in the petrochemicals industries and have seen many unsafe incidents which claimed many lives and created some of the worst disasters know to human kind,” said Nayager. “This industry has sustained me for all these years and I wanted to give something back for its future sustainability,” he said.

Using an employee survey and site selection, Nayager’s research used a representative sample of 349 respondents, from a total of 950 supervisors, managers and workers. After the data was analysed and interpreted, the findings were used to develop the Organisational Methodology Model for NM&MI which was further compared to other research and international benchmarks to improve it further for dissemination.

The research took five years to complete, with the findings showing an extremely high NM&MI rate for the sampled organisations. “Management commitment was evident but was reactive rather than proactive and there were major differences in the perceptions of safety, health and environmental approaches. On analysing the NM&MI including the financial losses incurred, it was found that NM&MI drastically impacted key functional areas of the organisations, all stakeholders, the environment and other life forms,” he said, adding that his research, which can be used locally and globally, contributes new information that will allow for better management of NM&MI.

Conducting the research was however not smooth sailing for Nayager. Many organisations refused to share their safety data due to the sensitive nature of this information, Nayager’s research would be misplaced at a later stage and he would also be retrenched from his employment while completing his DTech studies. “In September 2012, I was being retrenched from my then employment. I was two weeks short of turning 60 when that happened. This was around the time I was preparing to hand my thesis over for examination and I was excited to be the only employee to achieve a doctorate. My studies came to a standstill. Later on, it would be the motivation, love and belief from my wife and daughter which encouraged me to not lose hope in achieving my goal,” he said.

Nayager is a part-time lecturer at DUT. He has over 35 years experience working for global petrochemical organisations such as Engen, Vopak Tank Terminals and Island View Storage (Bidvest). He has a Master of Business Administration Degree (MBA) in Business Administration Degree (thesis on safety and operational risks at a selected chemical company) from DUT, a Bachelor of Technology (BTech) degree from DUT and a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Wales.

This year (2015), he published a book on safety in industry. In 2012, he made major contributions to training and development at Island View Storage, including implementation of the succession planning model.

– Sinegugu Ndlovu

Pictured: Dan Nayager.

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