TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – Canadian miner Goldcorp is spearheading a mining-industry-wide health and safety study with global auditing firm Deloitte & Touche, to deepen the industry’s level of insight into why people do wrong things at work that not only impacts on their colleagues’ safety, but also the outside perception of the company they work for.
Goldcorp senior VP for people and safety Paul Farrow told Mining Weekly Online during this week’s Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada event that it was of critical importance for all miners to strive to maintain the best possible health and safety records for their operations, owing to the damaging effect it had within the organisation itself, and the knock-on effect it could potentially have on the industry as a whole.
Farrow took on the role of senior VP for people and safety in 2012, a new position at Goldcorp, with the goal of integrating its people and safety strategies.
He explained that a faultless safety record was built on creating a positive culture of responsibility among employees and through continuous education.
“Safety is critically important, but people are more important. Safety can only happen through people, and that is what we are trying to achieve through continuous interaction with our employees,” Farrow said.
The study was slated for publication during the second quarter, and would include a review of best practices from across the mining industry.
He emphasised that a good safety record is not just about costing. It translated directly to predictable solid production, as well as the other way around.
“As soon as one sees unstable production, chances become very real for the operation’s safety record to be dismal. ‘Safety measured though production performance’ remains one of the best indications of whether one’s strategies are working,” he said.
Goldcorp’s focus on improving its safety record was delivering results, as its ‘all injury frequency rate’ decreased by 31% and the lost-time injury frequency rate decreased by 14% in 2011. This was, however, despite four deaths on company properties in the same year.
Farrow said people’s habits, behaviours and attitudes influenced safety records and positive motivation and empowerment went a long way to improve safety.
To this end, Goldcorp encouraged shift supervisors to get to know as much as possible about the private lives of employees, to understand better why people do wrong things, which in turn, would help to prevent accidents from happening.
He pointed out that Goldcorp had a strategy to empower each employee across all its operations to immediately stop production as soon as they spotted inappropriate employee behaviour that could endanger lives.
AHEAD OF THE SKILLS GAP
The mining industry is facing a global challenge to attract skilled workers. In the next five to ten years, Canada alone is expected to need between 55 000 and 100 000 new workers to meet growing demand.
Goldcorp pointed out it was getting ‘ahead of the curve’ by implementing programmes for new university graduates, bolstering partnerships with nongovernmental organisations and adopting a new cross-discipline approach to career advancement.
Farrow said Goldcorp was currently in a “growth mode” and had a huge appetite for skilled personnel to rise through the ranks.
“While our good safety record has gone a long way to attract prospective employees, we are also able to offer a lot of personal growth within the company. We even offer mature career opportunities with a high degree of flexibility, which is attractive to employees,” he said.
The company offered internal graduate programmes, as well as leadership development programmes to employees and encouraged as much internal movement as possible to ensure employees gained as much experience across the disciplines throughout the company.
He pointed to the company’s safety leadership development programme, which all employees attended in four week-long sessions, spread over a 15-month period. At the end of such programmes, employees had to present improvement projects at their workplaces to management, for which they may get rewarded.
Farrow explained that during this process, management had an opportunity to cherry pick and mentor a next generation of managers from within the company’s ranks.
“We aim to teach employees the art of leadership and the science of management through our programmes. This helps us, as a growing company, stay ahead of the growing skills gap.”
Goldcorp also ran programmes empowering women to participate in all areas of operations and offered life-skills training, in an effort to free-up employees from tradition-designated roles and to break cultural barriers.