Protecting employee health in the work environment is not only socially responsible and the right thing to do but is also directly related to an organization’s ability to sustain a productive and engaged workforce. Best practice in occupational health necessitates a process of continuous improvement, a process to which one of Golder’s global gold mining clients was truly committed.
When it comes to safety and health, the company’s stance was that the prevention of all incidents is a realistic goal and not just a theoretical objective. In an effort to confirm that their corporate best practices for occupational health and hygiene (OH&H) were not only practical but attainable at an individual site level, this gold major engaged Golder to conduct a comprehensive OH&H audit and gap analysis for the company’s operating sites in North America, Latin America, Australasia and Africa.
Conducting the review at both the site and corporate levels allowed Golder to identify discrepancies and recommend how to best close any gaps. As the sites are in geographically diverse locations and governed by different regulatory requirements, the goal was to provide sufficient training, resources and support to the sites to achieve the common objective of protecting workers’ health, regardless of the jurisdiction.
The site-level review was conducted remotely with input pertaining to OH&H practices, procedures and resources provided by each site from three sources: a self-report questionnaire, submission of requested documentation, and interviews with site team members. This information was used to review the sites performance in relation to the following seven OH&H practice areas:
- Occupational Hygiene
- Respiratory Protection
- Medical Surveillance
- Hearing Conservation
- Fatigue Management
- Hazard Communication
- OH&H Resources
The assessment phase involved the review of site performance against OH&H best practices and was conducted using four defined best practice criteria for each of the seven practice areas. The site ranking for each practice criteria was classified based on a safety management maturity scale developed by Golder, which generally progresses from ad hoc, reactive management styles through sophisticated practices where data is measured, managed, and verified.
The corporate-level review included both a questionnaire and interviews with corporate environmental, health and safety staff. The questionnaire was constructed to include the primary components of a Health and Safety Management System as defined in International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) guides, as well as specific questions related to the management of safety-related incidents and incident investigations, corporate climate and culture, and a simplified SWOT analysis.
The performance of each operating site, based on the defined best practices, was summarized, and compared to identify trends. Each site was provided a template of specific gaps in documentation, resources and/or performance for the four criteria under each practice area, which were used for the development of site-specific improvement plans. The sites were able to provide feedback on where corporate stakeholders could provide additional support to close these gaps.
Using the findings from Golder’s audit and gap analysis and the site-specific improvement plans, the client is now able to adjust their processes and help local sites deliver continuous improvement in health and safety performance.
Taking the initiative to confirm that individual mine sites can achieve the best practice standards set forth by corporate can be done without need for travel, and is something that all multi-site operators would do well to imitate for the benefit of their employees and business.