The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) has released a report on the safety performance of its member companies, including Barrick. The report highlighted a small increase in the number of fatalities last year, although fatalities and injuries have been trending lower over the past three years. The report is designed to provide transparency to stakeholders, while mapping out how companies are working to reduce safety risks.
In its third annual safety report, the ICMM reported 60 fatalities among its 23 member companies last year, four more than the previous year, but well below the 90 fatalities that occurred in 2012 and 91 in 2013. The ICMM also reported a decrease in total recordable injuries from 13,895 in 2012 to 10,586 in 2015.
"Nothing is more important to us than people's health and safety and ICMM's ambition is to have no fatalities in the mining industry," said ICMM CEO Tom Butler in a press release announcing the report.
However, the death of Meckson Kakompe at Barrick's Lumwana mine on July 30 only highlights just how much work must still be done to eliminate all fatalities.
Barrick, as a member company, is working to support this goal by implementing the ICMM's Health and Safety Critical Control Management Guide, which outlines steps that companies can take to reduce the risk of fatal accidents.
"We participated in the development of this guidance document along with several of our peers, and now we're in the process of implementing it at all of our sites. It's part of our drive to ensure that everyone is going home safe and healthy every day," he says.
Barrick used the ICMM guide to identify the critical controls for Barrick's 17 fatal risk categories. The company identified preventative controls for each risk using the Bowtie process, which establishes preventative controls as well as mitigating measures to reduce the severity of a consequence if preventative controls fail. Barrick's highest priority fatal risk is operating heavy machinery and light vehicles.
"We then identify which controls are critical—things that can't afford to fail—and isolate those and then manage those controls to make sure they're effective," Ross says.
In the case of operating heavy machinery such as a haul truck, brakes are critical controls that are examined during each preventative maintenance inspection. In addition, the operator checks brake functionality during each pre-shift inspection.
Berms along mining roads are also critical safety controls which help prevent haul trucks from falling over the edge if a driver loses control of his or her vehicle. These berms must be inspected with a set frequency to ensure that they conform to strict engineering standards.
Critical controls must be regularly monitored and evaluated to ensure they meet established performance requirements. Minimum performance thresholds must also be established to ensure that corrective action is taken when these thresholds are not met.
Each Barrick site is introducing monitoring systems that track critical controls associated with heavy mobile equipment. The systems are expected to be in place by year end. Over the next two years, the company will expand this type of monitoring to other critical risk areas.
The new monitoring systems should reduce the number of high-potential events—incidents that could result in fatalities—in heavy machines, which, in turn, should decrease, if not eliminate fatalities. Barrick had three fatalities in 2015 all related to operating heavy machinery.
The ICMM Safety Guidelines stress the importance of a control-oriented focus to safety management. The key difference is being focused on control effectiveness and mitigating against inadequate controls before an event occurs, rather than learning of control failure after an accident.
Eventually, Ross and his team would like to monitor controls in real time, which means digitizing data by installing sensors on equipment and in high-risk areas to track and record employee behavior. He compares digitization to the role of photo radar, which monitors traffic remotely and issues citations to vehicles that exceed the speed limit. Would-be speedsters are less likely to exceed the speed limit, which decreases the number of speed-related incidents.
"This sort of approach had a significant success rate with in the Inthinc vehicle monitoring system, a technology that monitors the driving behavior of all of our people using the company's light vehicle fleet," Ross says. "It eliminated unsafe driving behavior, and I think digitization could offer us a similar success rate; it also has the added benefit of providing real-time feedback on how some of our controls are functioning."
Given ICMM's collaborative nature across different companies, all of Barrick's safety learnings will be shared with the broader membership, and vice versa. It is this type of concerted effort that has led to a dramatic decrease in lost-time injuries in the mining industry over the last decade, and one that Ross and his team hope will put an end to fatalities across the industry.
The ICMM is a collaborative mining industry organization comprised of leading mining and metals companies. Members work together to promote responsible mining with a shared commitment to people and the environment.