Stronger Together: A lesson from Livorno, Italy

Published: Nov 04, 2021

For Giampiero Patalano, winner of a 2020 Our World Award in the Safety category, safety is rooted in collaboration and a strong Culture of Care – and it's a shared responsibility.

"Safety is a value whose protection depends on everyone's commitment," he says. "We are all safety leaders."

In February 2020, Italy recorded its first cases of the coronavirus and soon became the epicenter for COVID-19 across Europe. As the country was pushed to the global stage, essential services like Nutrien's storage and blending facility in Livorno were faced with a seemingly impossible task: being among the first to battle a global crisis with no playbook to turn to.

"In just a few days, we realized that what we saw on television was also happening in our cities," recalls Giampiero, Safety and Agronomy Coordinator at Nutrien's Livorno site. "We didn't know how long it would last and what impact it would have, but we understood that we would immediately face a sea of change in our working lives."

Giampiero didn't waste time. He rapidly instituted rules to protect the office and plant teams – including the installation of plexiglass separations, new rules for truck drivers, daily sanitization routines for machinery and regulated access to the locker rooms. Office staff were immediately set up to work from home and physical distancing was implemented onsite.

"In Italy, we are a very close-knit group of people, accustomed to working closely and collaboratively," says Giampiero. "We had to find new ways to avoid contact while maintaining quality of work and interpersonal communication. Microsoft Teams was a huge support in keeping us connected and united."

Giampiero also took the initiative to ensure availability of masks, gloves and hand sanitizer for every employee in the office and at the plant – before it was a company requirement to do so.

"Giampiero showed this year his capacity to adapt and react very quickly to a situation for which there was no playbook and which could have quickly got out of control at any time," says Gregory Fontaine, Managing Director, Nutrien Europe. "He has shown great leadership values of humanity and caring for his colleagues – putting their safety first and then focusing on what was needed to keep the operation running and viable."

Despite the fact its peak season occurred just a month into the pandemic, the Livorno site managed to deliver on its commitments that year without a single COVID case. Giampiero credits this success to the efforts of the entire Livorno site – including its considerate and cooperative customers.

Even in the midst of a crisis, the Livorno team remained firm that its members were stronger together. Their knowledge and experience served as a source of learning for our other Nutrien Europe locations as the pandemic moved further west.

"The sense of responsibility and respect for our colleagues has always been very high in Livorno," says Giampiero. "At the first sign of a fever, every employee preferred to stay at home rather than risk compromising the health of their colleagues. The safety of the community always came first."