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ASSE Chapter Spotlight: Kuwait

For the last six years, Ashok Garlapati has been a part of the ASSE’s Kuwait Chapter, and as the chapter’s current Vice President, he strives to further its growth and development. In this interview, Ashok discusses the chapter’s accomplishments, latest initiatives and objectives for the future.

What are your responsibilities as Vice President of the Kuwait Chapter?

I have been involved with the Kuwait Chapter since its establishment in 2000. I worked as a Head of the Environment Committee, Secretary-Elect, Secretary and now I serve as Vice President. Since I have been a part of the chapter from the very beginning, I take pride in its growth, and I work continuously for its development. My responsibilities in the chapter are as follows:

  • Advising the Secretary and other Committee Heads in the development of strategic plans and their implementation
  • Identifying relevant training programs based on members’ needs and working with the Training Committee
  • Creating more professional safety, health and environmental (SH&E) awareness within the industry and society as a whole
  • Arranging specialized technical work committees to study SH&E issues
  • Working with the Outreach Committee to design and coordinate outreach programs for school children and the general public
  • Providing a platform for rendering necessary guidance on SH&E issues within various social groups
  • Representing the Kuwait Chapter at ASSE meetings and events to assess the needs of international ASSE members

What do you believe have been the chapter’s most significant accomplishments?

Our most significant accomplishments are as follows:

  • We have conducted three international Professional Development Conferences on a regional basis in 2001, 2003 and 2004.
  • The Kuwait Chapter was the first international chapter to achieve highest membership growth in 2005.
  • The Kuwait Chapter proved that the ASSE could meet the requirements of international members. Based on the success of the Kuwait Chapter, the ASSE Board of Directors created a taskforce to further enhance the ASSE’s growth in the international arena.
  • In 2004, the Kuwait Chapter conducted its first national seminar on SH&E regulations in the State of Kuwait.
  • The Kuwait Chapter has developed a series of annual outreach programs, which include a Beach Cleanup Campaign (February 19), World Environment Day (June 5), International Ozone Day (September 16) and SH&E Pupils Week (April).
  • We developed succession planning to ensure that the Executive Committee is transformed every June. The members will be selected each December, and they will work with the current Executive Committee from January through June and then take over in July. This ensures a smooth transformation.

How does the Kuwait Chapter recruit and maintain members? What kinds of benefits or services does it offer?

Our membership committee conducts regular membership campaigns, and members who contribute to chapter development may receive free membership renewal based on approved criteria. We also provide subsidies to members and maintain effective rosters.

Other member benefits include the opportunity to participate in training courses and to network with other SH&E professionals, access to library facilities and free counseling, free admission to the Professional Development Conferences and other technical meetings and recognition of active members’ efforts.

What safety, health and environmental (SH&E) issues are currently of greatest importance to Kuwait Chapter members? How are members coordinating with Kuwait’s workforce to address these issues?

Ninety percent of Kuwait’s labor force works in the oil and gas industry, and since 95% of the Kuwait Chapter members work in oil and gas, the safety issues and risks involved in oil exploration and refining are of greatest importance to them. Environmental pollution caused by the 1991 Gulf War and associated issues are of great significance to members. Also, Kuwait has one of the highest traffic accident rates per capita, so defensive driving is a key issue for members.

Our chapter members reach out to Kuwait’s workforce through public awareness campaigns. We conduct outreach programs for children, and we hold an annual SH&E pupils week (similar to North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) week) as well.

The Kuwait Chapter regularly holds member meetings. What topics do these meetings typically cover?

The Kuwait Chapter conducts a monthly Executive Committee Members meeting every second Sunday of the month, and it holds monthly technical meetings for members every fourth Sunday of the month. Some of our most recent meeting topics have included:

  • Challenges of occupational hygiene in oil production
  • International Electro technical Commission (IEC) Standards 61508 and 61511
  • Medic first-aid
  • Office ergonomics
  • Road safety and defensive driving principles
  • Stress and its management in the workplace

How does the Kuwait Chapter promote effective SH&E practices among Kuwait’s workforce?

We hold frequent technical meetings on SH&E topics for ASSE members, other SH&E professionals and the general public. We conduct safety awareness programs for schoolchildren, and we organize beach cleanup campaigns throughout Kuwait.

We have conducted some programs for oil refineries, which include defensive driving, awareness of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations and courses on ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 Lead Auditor. We also participate in local companies SH&E Open Day functions to promote the ASSE and its benefits to safety professionals.

The Kuwait Chapter has grown considerably since it was first established. To what does the chapter attribute this success?

We attribute our success to our members’ commitment. And thanks to the success of our training programs and member discounts, we are able to both attract and retain our members. In most of interviews, Engineers are often asked whether they have got ASSE membership. Also our website provides most of the updated information on SH&E regulations in the State of Kuwait.

How can members make the most of their participation in the Kuwait Chapter?

Our chapter is divided into five committees in which members can participate—training, public awareness, outreach, government affairs and membership. In addition to volunteering in these committees, members can help plan our monthly meetings and annual programs and activities.

What are the Kuwait Chapter’s plans for this year?

This year, we plan to:

  • Develop an interactive website that will serve as a good online resource for SH&E professionals
  • Establish a student chapter
  • Hold our fourth Professional Development Conference
  • Establish an Occupational Health Forum

How has your involvement in the Kuwait Chapter and in the ASSE in general helped you in your professional career?

Since I joined the Kuwait Chapter in 2000, I have had the chance to take part in many ASSE-sponsored events and to volunteer my time in several different capacities. The ASSE has helped me network with other SH&E professionals, and the localized workforce here in Kuwait recognizes me as a resource for SH&E information.

My employer, Kuwait Oil Company, is also very supportive of my involvement in the ASSE. They value what I learn through the society, and they encourage me to implement this knowledge in my job.

Biography

Ashok Garlapati is a Health, Safety and Environmental (HS&E) Specialist for Kuwait Oil Company, and he currently serves as Vice President of the ASSE’s Kuwait Chapter. He was involved in its establishment in 2000. He has 18 years of environmental management experience in the oil and gas industry.

Garlapati is a Professional Member of the ASSE, a member of the International Membership Taskforce and a member of the Council on Member & Region Affairs-Most of the World (COMRA-MOW) Taskforce to increase the ASSE’s global representation. He holds a bachelor degree in environmental engineering from Shivaji University in Kolahpur, India and a master degree in business management from Madurai Kamraj University in Tamil Nadu, India. He also holds HS&E certification from the National Safety Council (NSC), and he is a Lead Auditor of the ISO 14001 and OHSAS18000 series.