Ángela Sierra
Administrative and Human Resources Manager
Gonvarri Colombia

Road safety has become a priority of public policy in Colombia, which is why work has been carried out continuously for the past two decades to lower the number of victims of traffic accidents on roads and urban streets. The results have been impressive, but we still haven’t reached the levels of countries in the vanguard of dealing with this problem, such as Sweden, Denmark, the United Kingdom and Spain.

Indeed, the rate of accidents in Colombia is very worrying. There are nearly 6,000 deaths a year and more than 40,000 injuries, many of them irreversible, which leave behind pain and loss in thousands of families; and which have made driving a vehicle a “dangerous activity” according to the Colombian Transit Code itself.

The principle causes of accidents in the country are speeding, distractions (applying make-up, chatting, sending text messages…), driving while intoxicated (despite very high fines and even prison sentences), lack of respect for the laws, and a young age (which is the primary cause of death among young people aged 15 to 29). Another cause to consider is the lamentable state of many roads, which are unpaved, with inadequate signs, or built on vulnerable terrain. Cities are also a dangerous territory (65% of victims die in urban areas), especially at intersections or crossings of fast lanes and, above all, during weekend nights, when excess speed is combined with excess alcohol.

Keeping in mind these figures, road safety is a complex challenge that involves strategies to develop infrastructure, vehicles, and regulations that promote a safe system and the safe behavior of users (culture). This is an achievement that implies co-responsibility: all of us have a part to play to make the system safe and protect the integrity of those in transit.

In this sense, culture is another primary factor when it comes to realizing interventions to reduce the rate of accidents with loss of life in Colombia; for this reason, participating in changing citizen behavior is a determining factor and the area where most work has yet to be realized. Indeed, up until now, neither fines for driving while intoxicated, nor speed controls, seem to be the solution to a road mentality that each year causes nearly 6,000 deaths in the country. The challenge is great because, despite the rules and the campaigns, a Colombian dies in a traffic accident every 85 minutes. We believe that “the way to deal with the problem shouldn’t be solely be through punishment, but rather through education, raising awareness and encouraging road safety”, which is why Emotional Driving is an important part of the solution to traffic accidents.

Another reason for the high rate of accidents in Colombia has been institutional weakness, lack of policies and absence of supervision of those policies and of activities of inspection, control and vigilance. It was for this reason that the Agencia Nacional de Seguridad Vial (National Agency of Road Safety) emerged as an autonomous and specialized body that is responsible for leading the planning and execution of road safety policy in Colombia, with the specific task of effectively reducing the number of accidents in the country. This agency’s efforts are focused on fulfilling the mandate of the General Assembly of the United Nations: “In 2010, Colombia committed itself to reducing by 50% the number of traffic accidents by 2020, which would mean saving nearly 15,000 lives”.

It is important to highlight Gonvarri Colombia’s management in terms of the regulation and standardization of international regulations through its active participation in the Comité de Normatividad Colombiano-ICONTEC.

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Road Safety at Gonvarri Colombia

We mustn’t overlook the development of road infrastructure, a fundamental aspect of achieving a safe traffic system. For this reason, first we must consi­der the fact that people make mistakes, err in their judgment and make unfortunate decisions; accepting this means we must have infrastructures designed to mitigate risks and minimize damage. It is here that Gonvarri Steel Services, through its road safety division, plays an essential role offering products and services that comply with all international standards. At Gonvarri Colombia, through our brand Cenovial, we offer solutions that range from supplying the product to the installation of containment systems. While our present laws don’t regulate the need to install certified systems, at Cenovial we undertake constant validation, review and recommendations of engineering and specifications, aiming in this way to generate heightened awareness of infrastructure projects.

Through our work, we improved the safety of approximately 1,350 kilometers in 2015. Our big challenge is to continue working for road safety, offering projects that involve the implantation of containment systems, auditing and road inspections, giving importance to vulnerable actors on the road, such as pedestrians and motorcyclists, which will make it possible to lessen the severity of accidents in Colombia and Latin America.

Gonvarri Colombia, aware of the situation of the country’s roads, and with the aim of supporting government policy in this respect, is developing “The Strategic Plan of Company Road Safety”, which contributes elements to help the company transform its culture, with special emphasis on knowledge of and compliance to traffic laws, heightened perception of the risk of mobility and co-responsibility in encouraging a responsible and solidarity-oriented use of public space. To achieve this plan, we have made it our primary goal to increase the general culture of road safety, inside and out of work, something that directly affects the well-being of employees, their families and the community in general.

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Road safety must reflect the safe behavior of people. It is within this framework that we must locate our efforts to generate culture and change paradigms that cause people to behave one way at work and another, very different way outside of work; for this reason, we have carried out internal communication campaigns aimed at raising awareness about road safety, especially regarding traffic laws in Colombia, fatality and accident statistics in respect to traffic accidents and the laws that we must apply regarding entering and using vehicles inside our factory. Some of these campaigns have been, for example, to raise awareness about the use of seatbelts or alcohol consumption, or to get drivers to also follow traffic signs within the grounds of the company.

As part of the road safety plan, a virtual car and motorcycle school has been designed for employees who are more exposed to risk. We train employees at this virtual school about road safety, thereby creating a stronger culture of prevention; we also provide first-aid training and have set up a special day of interactive training with a simulator of driving a car, in which employees can experience the importance of following safety laws for their well-being and that
of their families.

Taking advantage of Gonvarri Steel Services’ great initiative of developing Emotional Driving, the next step in our road safety plan is to implement this program in our country.

At Gonvarri Colombia, we believe that social responsibility begins at home. For this reason, we orient our actions to offer quality of life and work to our employees and their families, with programs of work and social well-being and by offering them permanent consulting to face life’s different situations. We are a factory characterized by the good treatment of our employees, with an excellent work climate, where we apply our corporate values with coherence in daily activities, creating pride of belonging and generating commitment to the company. For us, as part of the Grupo Gonvarri, respect toward the employee and his or her family is an essential aspect in everything we do, a fundamental value about which we are very proud.

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