Respect for life and a deep sense of vocation drew Manuel Britez both to his current role as Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) manager at Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC) in Paraguay and to his volunteer job in the Fire Corps.
“Experience is often the key to finding solutions, and having seen so much during my time in the Fire Corps I am equipped to find them, even if they seem very hard to find,” Manuel tells us in an interview.
“I wanted to give first aid and to save lives, so I left my career in law to become a Paramedic at the Baptist University of Paraguay,” he adds, explaining his diploma in Medical Emergencies.
Born and raised in Paraguay’s capital, Asuncion, Manuel joined his country’s Volunteer Fire Corps while still at university. He was awarded a scholarship to visit other countries to develop skills and specialize in fire, rescue and teaching skills.
And this voluntary work paved the way in 2010 for Manuel to join the LDC team responsible for keeping the work environment safe.
“The SHE team in Paraguay was being reorganized then, and since the team leader was a firefighter who knew me, he suggested I apply for the position.”
Systems are not enough
LDC is committed to a safe work environment. It uses a specialized team around the world to ensure work conditions are safe so that LDC employees return home without injuries and with minimum impact to the environment.
In Paraguay, LDC produces, originates and processes products including oilseeds and grains. We also commercialize fertilizers, seeds and agrochemicals and operate a fleet of tugboats and barges for the transport of the products by river.
A key part of Manuel’s role is to provide all the related personal protective equipment, training staff, and implementing strict and clear safety procedures. Cultural change towards safety and emergency response preparedness is also a key part of his daily effort. He also ensures that all sites and facilities are built and maintained to operate safely.
“That’s the biggest part of the job but it’s not yet everything,” Manuel says, noting that most accidents are caused by human behavior.
“You can have good tools and systems in place but if they are not used correctly then problems occur.”
That is why Manuel remains focused on people.
“They are always my main motivation,” he says, noting also the importance of mental health.
“We need to look at the human being from every aspect,” Manuel says. “In order to perform well, people need to feel well.”
“You need to get people to treat their wellbeing as an absolute priority,” Manuel says.
But the most important challenge is for people to understand that they need to talk about their problems. In a country like Paraguay, the men especially are not used to talk about their problems or to show any weaknesses. That can build up stress.
“We emphasize the importance of sharing problems in good time and before they become much bigger than they have to be.”
Is the corporate world a good place to work for someone so focused on people?
“LDC understands that in the long-term, employee wellbeing is going to make the company grow,” Manuel says.
“That’s why we focus so much on people.”