February 05, 2022

Alcoa locations earn coveted EHS Excellence Awards

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At Alcoa, we believe in the importance of maintaining and improving a strong culture of safety and environmental excellence. To that end, Alcoans recently recognized plant contributions towards continuous improvement of EHS performance for acting proactively, advancing our global EHS priorities, and instituting best practices.

Poços de Caldas (Brazil), Lista (Norway), and Massena (USA) earned the title of 2021 EHS Excellence Award winners. These three locations excelled in completing proactive work, supporting global priorities, and sharing instituted best practices.

“The coveted EHS Excellence Award aims to recognize the most outstanding EHS performance and achievements in Alcoa,” explained VP, EHS & Risk, Belinda Stuckenberg. “This is an important opportunity to recognize and reward the time, effort and hard work underway at all our locations to improve our EHS culture, systems and performance.”

EHS Excellence Awards are determined based on a comprehensive scoring system with submissions weighted against qualifying metrics. Five of the award criteria are quantitative and have been tracked over the year. Because Alcoa believes in sharing best practices across its locations, the competitive review also requires the submission of two long-form narratives that detail an instituted EHS best practice. A global, cross-functional Selection Committee with representatives from Operations, Transformation, Asset Management and EHS reviewed each location's 2021 EHS performance and scored all submissions.

Discover a few achievements from our award winners:

Poços de Caldas, Brazil: In addition to achieving the qualifying metrics, teams instituted best practices for aluminum scrap recycling at the Brazilian casthouse and implemented digital solutions for their safety training.

PocosEHSInstituting a laser focus on scrap recycling
“Our efforts toward increasing recycling aluminum scrap align with our circular economy goals and helped reduce our GHS emissions. Not only did we reduce product costs we achieved energy savings,” explained Beatriz Vry, casthouse and powder plant manager.

The team was committed to recycling aluminum scrap but needed to better identify the chemical content for each piece of scrap. Without this information, furnace wait times would increase, energy consumption might grow, dross generation could rise, or alloys might be less pure. The solution was identified by the cross-functional team and included implementation of a laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy, a powerful analytical approach used to detect or characterize metals. By sorting with sensors, the Alcoa team enabled better, faster, and higher-grade scrap inputs.

The team also put the tool to work to quickly identify the different compositions of scrap in the stockyard and increase productivity in mass balances and in furnace operations.

Soon, the team saw additional benefits including productivity gains tied to the remelting of aluminum scrap and decreases in GHG emissions. Clickscan

Point, click and scan for safety

The team also optimized its safety training efforts by implementing smarter approaches through technology.

Previously, the team used plastic verification cards for their safety training. The cards would require replacement each time an employee attended a new or refresher training. The Poços team knew there was a smarter way forward, so they designed an innovative QR (quick response) code for management of its training efforts.

Already, teams are reporting benefits including more accurate and up-to-date training records, the ability to conduct on-demand remote audits or verification checks, and elimination of low-value work spent to replace the obsolete plastic cards.

This is the third time the Unit has received this award. The Poços de Caldas, Brazil team was recognized in 2000 and in 2005.

Lista, Norway:

The glue that binds improved production
Alcoans everywhere work tirelessly to drive value through superior operating performance and for operators everywhere that also means managing risk. At Alcoa’s Lista, Norway plant, operators knew that improved production required more stable pot operation, less pot contamination and an added benefit would be reduced potential for heat stress among its workers.

Through identifying opportunities to improve anode performance, teams developed what they described as their “roadmap to robustness.”

With anode and pot performance dependent on raw material quality and routine performance, they devised an approach that would include developing a new anode paste recipe. It integrated internal audits and a robust dashboard that brought increased visibility to data for more proactive actions.

“By changing the structure and content of the anode paste in combination with organizational changes, we are now producing more robust anodes and the results are pretty amazing,” explained Pot Room Manager Jan Ove Hansen.

The results? The Lista teams delivered improved operations and reduced anode consumption to an all-time low level. In addition, emissions have been reduced, and the teams delivered record billet production in 2022.

“With this reduction, we lowered our emissions and even reduced our waste of skimmed material. We are using less but producing the same amount,” Rita Kalleberg, Process Engineer explained. “Another effect is that we now have more stable pot operations. All in all, this is a win for operators, the environment, and our bottom line as Alcoa continues to improve and deliver even more sustainable and stable operations.”

A safer port in any storm
Since Lista was brought online in the early 1970s, teams had always operated their port by handling bulk vessels. Listaport1

“The old way of loading and unloading transports, however, was prone to risks,” explained Cast House Manager, Aida Bermudez.

Whether it was lifting operations, fall hazards or interaction between mobile equipment, teams knew the importance of communicating risk and deploying safety mitigation approaches to each task.

As part of the company’s risk management approach, Lista teams flagged the port work as an opportunity to develop a newer, safer way to work.

“The old way of loading and unloading our transports was prone to safety risks such as fall hazards, and if that wasn’t enough, we often needed as many as 18 hours loading the transports,” Gunnar Fossland, Lista EHS Manager said. Listaport2

The Lista team knew the time to implement a new way of working was at hand.

Working in partnership with Alcoa’s global audit team, teams explored a variety of solutions, site visits to other operations managing bulk vessels of like products and more. From their interviews, they discovered the port could transition to roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) operations if they used Mediterranean mooring.

The Mediterranean approach would enable Lista teams to move away from a crane and sling to unload its vessels and instead enjoy the ability for transport to drive on and off the ship on their own wheels through a vehicle platform.

This effort has not only helped reduce safety risks but has also improved productivity by reducing the port times to load.

“There was a lot of good news. We solved the safety risks and the ro-ro vessel we currently use is also equipped with rotor sails (Magnus effect), which lowered fuel consumption, so we further reduced emissions in transport,” Fossland added.

Massena, United States:

This is the 3rd consecutive win for the Massena team! Not only did the team in New York state earn a high score in the qualifying metrics, but they also submitted strong best practices that can be shared.

The world’s oldest continuously operating smelter takes steps for smaller footprint

MassenaEHSMassena identified new practices and strategic partnerships to give the world’s oldest continuously operating smelter a greener, more efficient waste management footprint.

Since 1902, Alcoans have been operating and innovating from this northern New York plant. They understand that remaining competitive requires an unyielding focus on safety and operating with excellence.

When Alcoa set new goals in 2019 for waste management, Massena Operations emboldened its workforce to find every opportunity to reduce, reuse and recycle.

“When it comes to waste management, it’s always the right time to take a fresh look at how well you’re doing it,” explained Derrick Lucey, plant manager at Massena. “If you do it right, the benefits show up quickly, not just in a safer, healthier way to operate, but in a healthier bottom line as well.”

For Massena, their goal was to focus on both cost savings and improved sustainability efforts implementing circularity concepts of increased recycling, reduced land filling, less transportation of waste on and off site and ultimately less CO2e emissions.

Massena audited its waste program and teams quickly went to work and created detailed waste inventories to provide insight about waste streams, volumes generated, costs associated with treatment and disposal that could inform new processes and smarter approaches.

For the Massena teams, the adage of one person’s trash is another’s treasure rang true: spent vapor pot barrier steel was recycled; improved sorting of spent anode pieces and rod yokes increased returns for recycling; compaction of loose shipments and bailing cardboard reduced shipments, and wood pallets became an industrial byproduct for a nearby wood pellet business.

Creating a better tool to support good work

In early 2021, Alcoa launched its Good Work Design (GWD) project, which included improvements to reduce or remove manual processes, promote well-being, and create an accommodating environment for a diverse workforce.

Alcoa’s Good Work Design project takes an operator-centric approach to identify the highest physical demanding tasks and work to re-design them. Since its launch, every plant has been working to identify and implement improvement opportunities.

At Massena, teams leveraged an ergonomic expert who worked closely with the global GWD team to create a new template to evaluate the risk exposure of physically demanding tasks. Additionally, Massena devised the tool to consider individual components of a job to identify which tasks would be more physically demanding and thus a higher level of risk. Massena utilized the new approach for all smelter jobs (and subsequently all Cast House jobs). This approach has since been approved for use at all Alcoa locations.