Preventing fatalities

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Responsible mining and metals companies have an unwavering commitment to the health, safety and wellbeing of workers and their families, local communities and wider society.

As an industrial activity, mining is often hazardous; despite the implementation of comprehensive safety management systems by many companies, fatalities and potential fatalities continue to occur. But this doesn’t mean it cannot be done safely. With effective risk management, accidents can be preventable.

Leaders, from chief executives to frontline supervisors, are vital in this regard as they set the tone for others in their organisation to follow. A visible commitment to health and safety at all levels of an organisation is essential, which is central to establishing a culture of safety. To support industry in working towards achieving zero fatalities ICMM has produced key resources aimed at addressing many of the important issues on health and safety.

Leadership matters: eliminating fatalities is a guide for senior leaders to help increase workplace safety, both through their personal actions and through the processes and activities they need to ensure are in place.

Leadership matters: managing fatal risk guidance is a document intended for managers at operations on-site, and should be read in conjunction with the first Leadership Matters document. This guidance provides a series of self-diagnostic prompts, built around an internationally recognised risk management framework that can help identify potential gaps in safety management systems.

Fatality prevention: eight lessons learned

Health and safety needs to be central to all operations and processes – with every practical and reasonable measure adopted to eliminate workplace fatalities, injuries and disease from mining and metals activities. Our members are committed to pursuing continual improvements in health and safety performance with the ultimate goal of achieving zero fatalities – no single fatality is acceptable.

To encourage information and knowledge-sharing among members, and to catalyse learning across the industry on where to focus efforts, we produce an annual safety data report, covering the fatality and injury data of company members. While, we can see improvements over time, the data also suggests that we need to consider more deeply what more can be done to make the next step change in safety culture. That is, we need to get better at learning from our mistakes at an industry level.

Building on the experiences of health and safety experts from across the ICMM membership, in 2019, ICMM published Fatality Prevention: Eight lessons learned. This paper provides an overview of the key lessons learned by the membership to date on eliminating fatalities.  We encourage all in the industry to consider these lessons and consider 'what else can we be doing to truly get to zero fatalities?'  In summary, the lessons are:

  1. Zero fatalities mindset: As an industry we have shifted our focus to fatality prevention. This needs to be sustained, whilst continuing to work on overall injury reduction.
  2. Safety leadership at all levels: This is critical to achieve and sustain a fatality free mining industry.  Where missing, we need to build a true, positive culture of safety and work to sustain it.
  3. Change management: Our approach to safety as a value will remain a constant focus and must not flex and wane with industry cycles, divestments and joint venture (JV) partnerships.
  4. Learning from the past: “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.  We must learn from past fatalities and proactively apply critical controls to known fatal risks.
  5. Risk management capability: We have structured our fatality prevention around risk management. We must become better at building adequate capability to undertake high quality risk assessments and address the variation in tolerance to risk seen at operations across the world.
  6. Critical controls: We must continue to recognise fatal risks and the need to eliminate them or upgrade critical controls to be more reliable rather than relying on procedural or behavioural controls.
  7. Fall of ground: Operating deep, high-stress mines requires continued efforts to better protect individuals from rock bursts and falls of ground.
  8. Prevention is better than cure: The burden of occupational disease in mining results in more fatalities than we have recognised in the past and we need different controls to prevent them compared to other fatal risks.

We encourage others to use these learnings to embed a safety-first mindset into all levels of corporate governance, to enhance established risk management capabilities. To learn more read Fatality Prevention: Eight lessons learned.