Security, a way of life

"Security is a way of life."

Martin Damelli felt valued for his contribution to the group. To have been designated by Montecon as a benchmark and creator of a culture of security excellence delights his soul: he wants to give 100% to the role "because security is a way of life", he comments. He learned this in the Safestart programme which is part of a project undertaken by Monte Carlo along with the national development agency (ANDE), with the aim of bringing about a major shift in security practice, both inside and outside work. He and four other colleagues who were also chosen as leaders travelled to Chile to learn about this personal care tool.

They play a vital role in this far-reaching project because they are in charge of relaying the knowledge they gained to workers in supplier companies (loading, lorries, elevators and those who work in Depo 20). In this way they will contribute to the big objective: reducing the gap that exists in security matters between Montecon and its contracted service suppliers, in order to promote the same level of readiness in the whole production chain.

Learning from mistakes.

“Safestart is independent from any security protocol or established concept. And it doesn’t replace any one element (helmets, high-viz jacket or steel-capped shoes), seeking instead for a culture of security and an understanding that 95% of accidents are caused by human error", he says. “This mistake is connected with certain emotional states that a person may undergo, and which cause situations of risk", adds the trainer and crane signalman.

"The more negative states a person lives through, the greater their risk of suffering an accident."

There are four states of mind that principally detract from attention at work: haste, complacency (overconfidence), fatigue and frustration (inattention). Martín enumerates: “These factors can lead us to commit four mistakes: we don’t concentrate on what we're doing (mind not on the job), we don’t look at what we’re doing (eyes not on the job), we cross a red danger line (crossing the line of fire) and we fall, stumble or slip (loss of traction, balance or purchase)”.

“All these states have consequences, and apart from being interconnected, augment each other: the more negative states a person experiences, the greater the risk of suffering and accident", he explains.

Montecon and 'Los Pinos'.

The aim of the workshops given to suppliers is to provide them with individual analysis tools in order to help them detect those states and see how they can have repercussions in the jobs at hand. Martín: "Knowing that each act is the consequence of a state of mind, we can foresee certain techniques for avoiding them. And if there is no way of avoiding the mindset, how we can prevent errors".

Martín Damelli


Divided into seven learning units, classes take place in the Los Pinos educational Centre, in the Casavalle neighborhood, in an environment different from that of the port which encourages students to focus on the course content. While the frequency depends on the availability of trainers and students, the idea is that they should be regular in order for the modules not to lose continuity. Martín reveals that “there are very moving moments, because they bring back many personal experiences related to accidents, both at work and elsewhere“.

Striking statistics.

"It’s not only about security at work, but also in the family contacts and life in general."

The risk of suffering an accident outside work is 15 times greater than during working hours. "The journey from home to port or back is when the person is most vulnerable, which is why it’s not only about security at work, but also in the family context and life in general", he says, having spent 20 months in surgery and physiotherapy after fracturing his tibia, fibula and femur in a motorbike accident.

"Safestart is a major change in the way of thinking about accidents, because we always say it’s someone else’s fault; we don’t like admitting our own. But errors derive from oneself and can be avoided. This makes you think about the risks you may have run in your life and whether you could have avoided them”, he declares.

"My story in the port began five years ago. I was supplying third-party services to Montecon, in the same position I hold at the moment, crane signalman, which in the port is called gango. In January 2018 I joined Montecon's crane signalling service. There was a call for applications for new jobs, I applied, and after psychotechnical tests I was selected".

In the company where Martín worked before, he complied with security norms established by Montecon. Basic elements of security protection: helmets, high-viz clothing and shoes with steel caps to prevent any accidents.

"We saw security as elements we had to use to prevent accidents, or in the last resort for dealing with an accident, so that it’s less painful, less harmful; but not as a preventative measure or part of a culture of security, as a way of life. That was left out. We complied with the elements of security that were demanded by firms. I worked with machinery in other fields where there had to be a certain level of security, but the port is an area minutes where accidents are ever present: going up, going down, walking, doing several operations at once all increases the risk of accidents. At Montecon there is an awareness-building programme, and it aims for a culture of security in which people are aware of the dangers that can arise. It is being linked progressively to work performance and the training that Montecon gives. As security modules, given the dangerous loads which encourage security".

The role of security leader.

Five workmates were chosen to take forward a project involving personal safety and security awareness. They spend four days in an intensive training course in Chile. Safestart was what they went to learn: it was a drastic change in the way of thinking about security and everything that can happen.

"In Montecon an acceptable level was reached, so the weak point was third parties."

Safestart. It’s the latest tool for personal health and safety. It’s independent from any protocol or security concept. It doesn’t replace any one element of security. It seeks a cultural of security and the understanding that 95% of accidents are caused by human error. If you start from this you get to the bottom of accidents, which is lifestyle prevention.

A key part of the project is training, to introduce this way of thinking about security to contracted firms. “We noted from accident statistics that they were the most vulnerable. In Montecon an acceptable level was reached, so the weak point was third parties. This program assumes that each person is in charge of analyzing their own security," he says.

"We fulfill the role of trainer facilitators, in other words bringing what we learned in Chile, sharing it and explaining it to contracted staff. It was a surprise to be chosen. We are seen as benchmarks by contracted firms. Since I've been a stevedore I have a lot of contact with loaders: by knowing people it's easier to instill ideas in them that others might take as an imposition."

Montecon is a security benchmark.

“Personally it made me very proud, because I’ve been in the company for a year and a half. That they should choose me for this task, which involves a very profound change in people's future awareness, is an enormous honour. I feel important."

This new experience as a trainer complements the job of signalman. “It’s good to be a positive influence on others. I am attracted by the idea of giving them knowledge and tools so that they can make progress on something which can improve future aspects of their life. At home I’m very bossy, I talk a lot. You have to have empathy and a desire to communicate concepts."

Security begins at home.

Security has to reach the family environment, and life in general. One should bear it in mind during the journey to work, which is when the worker is most vulnerable. It has been found that there are 15 accidents outside work for everyone accident in it: people neglect security in other surroundings.

It’s crucial for people to understand that responsibility lies with each individual. With this mindset, any accident could have been avoided. This shouldn’t remain a mere anecdote or statistic: we have to change the future.


Montecon is the main public-area operator in the Port of Montevideo, not only for containers but also for general freight and freight projects. Its clients enjoy a seamless service that is world class.