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 does not mean it cannot be done safely. With effective risk management, accidents are 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 to establish a safety-first mindset.
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.
ICMM has developed several key lessons that focus on what the industry needs to be aware of and continue to improve on in its journey to zero fatalities.
- Zero fatalities mindset: As an industry we have shifted our focus to fatality prevention. This needs to be sustained, while continuing to work on overall injury reduction.
- 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.
- 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.
- Learning from the past: ‘Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.’ (Winston Churchill) We must learn from past fatalities and proactively apply critical controls to known fatal risks.
- 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.
- 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.
- Fall of ground: Operating deep, high-stress mines requires continued efforts to better protect individuals from rock bursts and falls of ground.
- 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.
Strengthening operational capacity
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.
Safety data benchmarking: 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.
Fatality prevention: Eight lessons learned: Building on the experiences of health and safety experts from across the ICMM membership, in 2019, ICMM published this paper providing 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?
Leadership Matters: The elimination of fatalities: This 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: This guidance is intended for managers at operations on-site and should be read in conjunction with Leadership Matters: The elimination of fatalities. 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.