Over the eight years that Simon Pollard has been working at Turquoise Ridge, he’s witnessed a dramatic shift in the mine's safety culture. Back in 2008, when he joined Turquoise Ridge as Chief Geologist, the site's safety record wasn’t the best, and there had been some fatal incidents. Fast-forward to the present: on May 3, 2016, Turquoise Ridge celebrated 1,000 days with zero Lost Time Injuries (LTI). Pollard, who became the mine's Safety and Health Superintendent in 2013, tells us about this safety achievement.
Beyond Borders: What changes have you noticed in the safety culture at Turquoise Ridge since you started working at the mine site?
Simon Pollard: When I first came to Turquoise Ridge for my interview for the Chief Geologist position in December of 2007, I saw a lot of what I could only describe as ‘cowboy behavior’. When I shared that perspective with Brent Kristof, the General Manager at that time, he challenged me to come to TRJV and be a part of the team that would lead the necessary change.
Over the past eight years, the mine has matured. Our workforce is far more stable than it was back then and is committed to the goal of sending every person home safe and healthy every day. We have developed a sense of family and of caring for each other. Now we have a team full of safety champions, many of whom regularly go out of their way to look after the safety of others as well as their own.
Can you tell us about the morning when you received confirmation that Turquoise Ridge had reached 1,000 days with zero LTIs. How did you feel about the news?
May 3 was a great day. We had been anticipating this milestone for a while, and lots of folks had been working hard to keep our people’s safety focus high. When we confirmed that morning that there had been no injuries over the previous nightshift, I think there was a great sense of satisfaction. We are all proud of what our team is achieving here. Reaching 1,000 days was important, because it spoke to the real possibility that we can conduct our business every single day without the need hurt anyone. It was also a psychological target many of us set over a year ago.
Yet, at the same time, there was also a voice in the back of our minds whispering: “don’t let go; don’t lose your focus.” We all know that there is a risk of people resting on their laurels once such a milestone is reached. We knew we had to be very vocal about maintaining our focus and our commitment.
Are there any key programs or strategies that were implemented to achieve this new milestone?
I think the biggest key to reaching this milestone was the development of the sense of family we have at Turquoise Ridge. From that sense of family comes a reason to care about more than just your own safety, and a passion for doing things right because you do care. We have placed a lot of effort into developing good leadership practices, with both supervision and the frontline workforce. We focused on making contact with our people out in the field and empowering them to make safe decisions. That increased our connection to the team as a whole and allowed us to better support our people across the site. This improved connection, combined with the care we have developed for each other, is driving our results.
What have been some of the main challenges you and your team have faced when trying to promote high safety standards at Turquoise Ridge, and how have you dealt with them?
The main challenge, in my opinion, has been trying to keep everyone moving in the same direction. As a mine we are always striving for change; change to improve our safety, to improve our production and to improve our costs. All that change comes with an understandable amount of pressure, both internal and external. A big challenge is working not to allow that pressure to distract our people from the importance of working safely, or from managing risks and doing things right.
What has been the reaction of your colleagues at Turquoise Ridge after you announced the achievement?
A great many of our employees have responded to the news very positively and with a lot of pride. There is a shared sense of accomplishment, having been part of a team that transformed Turquoise Ridge into one of the safest mines around. And of course, there are a few people on our team who do not wish to acknowledge the milestone because they’re afraid of ‘jinxing’ themselves. But my response to them is always the same: luck didn’t get us here, so I’m not worried that tempting bad luck could cause us any harm.
We’re on a journey to becoming an organization where we care about our collective well-being rather than just our individual well-being. What steps do you think we can take to get closer to this goal?
I don’t know if we have all the answers, but I think there are some basic things we need to get right if we are going to be successful in this area: