Fatality Prevention: Eight lessons learned (2019)

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Safe and healthy working conditions are a fundamental human right. ICMM supports members adherence to worker’s rights in accordance with the laws in their jurisdiction and applicable company policies.

Significant progress in occupational health and safety across our industry has been made in recent years, but more needs to be done to ensure work can be completed without injury or illness.

Over time, the mining industry has delivered substantial improvements in safety through a range of measures including enhanced critical control management. This can be seen within ICMM where, in 2018 our 27 company members recorded 50 fatalities, down from 90 in 2012, for 22 company members. While the latest figure demonstrates improved performance, we still have a long way to go to if we are to achieve a fatality-free industry.

The catastrophic failure of a tailings storage facility at Vale’s Corrego do Feijão mine in Brumadinho, Brazil, on 25 January 2019 is a stark reminder of this. When the dam collapsed, 11.7 million cubic meters of mining waste surged through the mine site towards the local town and countryside below.

This document provides an articulation of the collective discussions that have been taking place at ICMM on the lessons learned on why the industry continues to have fatalities, as well as provide some additional context and provide some thoughts on key messages.

Eight lessons learned

This document is designed to aid discussions on achieving zero fatalities by articulating collective lessons across three, interlinking categories: cultural, organisational and engineering/controls. In short, some of the key points identified are that as an industry we must:

  1. Set the tone at the top and demand that all levels of leadership from the Board to a supervisor champion the tone through their actions. Fatalities in our industry are still a painful reality; therefore, setting the tone for a progressive health and safety culture is vital. Never underestimate this.
  2. Note the zero harm versus zero fatalities debate. It is important that total recordable injury frequency rates (TRIFR) do not become a distraction to fatality prevention.
  3. Get change management processes right and be steadfast in how they are applied. This is particularly important during times of turnover, downturn or divestment at the management level.
  4. Get better at learning from our mistakes – internally and with others. More targeted benchmarking is required. Go beyond the simple act of sharing and improve active learning.
  5. Increase the sharing of results of member piloting of technology and encourage more rapid uptake of technological applications.
  6. Continue to support critical control risk management as a positive game changer for health and safety in the industry. The same approach should be considered for technological solutions. A balanced, holistic approach is needed.
  7. Be prepared to see radical changes in our current mining processes in some contexts. For example, a large portion of fatalities are in South Africa from fall of ground incidents. We may need to explore better methods to move people out of the line of fire.
  8. Raise occupational health and occupational disease as a prominent issue. We must drive exposure to key substances (DPM, silica, coal dust) to as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP).

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