Interview with Dmitriy Denisenko – Putting safety at the core of the business
As COFCO International’s Global Director Environment, Occupational Health and Safety (EHS) and Asset Management, Dmitriy Denisenko looks after more than 10,000 employees and contractors, who work at the company’s industrial and logistical assets around the world, such as crushing and processing plants, port terminals and logistic facilities.
Carrying responsibility for the environment, health and safety at more than 80 locations around the world, Dmitriy is convinced that “a business is only safe when safety is at its core.”
His deep understanding of business operations, commitment to safety, and ability to apply these skills across a diversity of countries, people and cultures, paved the way for his career in the industry.
Dmitriy’s first job after graduation was as an operator at an extraction plant in his native Ukraine, one of the world’s biggest grain processors.
While Ukraine was taking its first steps towards a market economy in the 1990s, opening up to world and investors, Dmitriy joined one of the commodity industry’s leading companies, which had just begun operations in the country.
“It was an incredible time to get involved,” he recalls. “I started from a very basic position, learned about the entire supply chain process and got a taste of the responsibility and opportunity that was to come.”
Having demonstrated an ability to navigate complex processes in times of change, Dmitriy’s career took him overseas, where he assumed operational and management positions around the world. He lived and worked in Egypt, Romania, China and Brazil before making Singapore his permanent home. He joined COFCO International as part of the Noble Group’s team which was integrated following the company’s acquisition in 2014.
With broad international experience, Dmitriy embraces the diversity in his team, capitalizing on the wealth of knowledge, cultures and experiences.
But, he stresses, while cultures vary, there can be “no geographical boundaries when it comes to safety”.
“I don’t like the expression safety culture,” he says. “It sounds like something optional or something that can change but safety is not a culture - it is part of the company’s values and the core of its work.”
Asked about the critical element for maintaining a safe workplace, he answers without hesitation: "A well-organized team and meaningful support from management."
Looking back over more than a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Dmitriy says it is thanks to the commitment and resilience of staff and management that the company was able to keep the supply chains running smoothly while the world was coming to a standstill.
“It was a tough year and a stress test for all of us,” he says. “While nobody could predict this kind of crisis or prepare in advance, the company’s strong fundamentals helped to weather the storm so far.”
The pandemic’s worst impacts were also mitigated by sharing experiences between different geographical locations, having an enhanced assets structure based on the latest technologies, and maintaining a truly global outlook. A supportive leadership team was also critical.
“With strong roots in China and a global presence, management took the pandemic very seriously from the moment it started unfolding. We reacted in time, and it made a huge difference.”
“Eyes on risk”
Many changes have happened in the EHS sector since Dmitriy started his career. Digital technologies are now crucial to prevent major accidents. New features can control plants remotely while systems recognize and send alerts about equipment malfunctions or human negligence.
COFCO International is developing a digital platform that will help employees and onsite contractors to spot and report hazards and unsafe practices in the workplace.
“New technologies and instruments are becoming very smart, allowing us to save not just time and effort, but also human lives.”
“At the same time,” Dmitriy warns, "the importance of human engagement should never be underestimated.”
That is why he encourages all his teams around the world to pay attention to - and care for - every team member.
“It is important to see how everyone is doing, to spot signs of fatigue, physical or mental, be ready to lend a hand when needed.”
Dmitriy believes that people are the main asset of any successful business. Understanding the needs of a multigenerational workforce with different cultural backgrounds is not an easy task. To integrate EHS intelligence deeply into the company base, Dmitriy works closely with Human Resources and other departments.
“Every employee is someone’s mother, husband, daughter or friend. Their lives and well-being are precious,” he says. “Valuing safety in the workplace is key to long-term success of our company,” says Dmitriy. “That is my mission.”