By Sophie Bergeron, Director, Safety & Health, Goldcorp
There is an unwritten rule in the mining industry that, when it comes to health and safety, there are no competitors, only collaborators.
That guiding principle was reinforced at a recent International Council of Mining and Metals (ICMM) conference in Santiago, Chile, where more than 300 mining industry executives and professionals came together to discuss health and safety at their operations around the world. There was general acknowledgement that the mining industry still faces significant challenges, which can only be addressed if companies operate to the highest standards and share their knowledge, especially when it comes to the well-being of employees.
As Director of Safety & Health at Goldcorp, I was proud to be part of the company’s 35-member delegation, which by the way was the largest group of attendees for a single company at the event! Our group included Goldcorp CEO Chuck Jeannes, COO George Burns, Senior Vice President of People and Safety, Paul Farrow, as well mine general managers from all of the company’s global operations.
As a group, Goldcorp had several success stories to share among our industry peers. We highlighted our “Safe Enough for Our Families” health and safety philosophy and our employees were a key part of discussions around the importance of leadership in health and safety, worker health programs, community health management and safety in operations.
One prominent theme at the event was the elimination of fatalities. While overall injury rates at mines are falling, fatalities are either stable or declining at a much lower rate. This is not just true at Goldcorp but across the industry.
At Goldcorp, we did an investigation across our mine sites to find out why fatality rates aren’t decreasing at the same rate as injuries. As part of the investigation, we discovered that the incidents that are pre-cursors to most injuries have little or no potential to be fatalities. In fact, from a review of more than 6,000 reported incidents across Goldcorp mines, only 17 per cent had the potential to be fatal. This showed us that the prevention of injuries and how we prevent fatalities need to be addressed and managed in different ways.
Goldcorp has a renewed vision for safety that includes sustainable processes that focus on systems, behaviours and leadership to pursue continuous improvements when it comes to decreasing both injuries and fatalities at our mines.
At Goldcorp, we work diligently to try to understand the causes of health and safety incidents. We make it a priority to eliminate potential fatalities with the belief that it’s possible to have a harm-free workplace. This focus on eliminating fatalities – alongside our “Seven Golden Rules of Safety” and “Golden Eye Reviews” of our mines – generated a lot of discussion among the industry participants at the event.
Of course we have more work to do to improve, which includes further identifying and eliminating all workplace hazards and increasing the awareness of each employee about the potential risks. We’re doing this with the recently implemented “Time To Act” third-party reviews of site operations. In these reviews, experts study work practices at each site and report each unsafe situation identified. They also work with the mine management to demonstrate how to make improvements in both practice and behaviour.
The goal at Goldcorp is to create an environment where safety becomes a keystone habit at all of our operations. These and other initiatives are all part of an aggressive campaign to challenge why we still have fatalities at Goldcorp.
As Chuck Jeannes said at the Chilean conference: “For effective safety, we need effective leadership.”