Throughout the mine lifecycle, exposures to chemicals, dust, noise, musculoskeletal disorders and infectious diseases, as well as emerging pandemic threats, pose risks to people’s health and our business. Fatigue, stress, obesity and depression are also health risks all employers face. With the right to life and right to healthy working conditions among our highest human rights risk areas, we work to effectively assess and manage health risks and promote and support the wellbeing of the people who work at and live near our operations.
Our approach toward identifying and managing health risks is articulated in our Health and Safety Policy. A set of global standards, systems and operating procedures detail the accountabilities, mandatory controls and minimum requirements for managing work-related and community health risks.
Our Occupational Health and Wellness Strategic Framework, which was finalized and implemented in 2016, focuses on the following areas of performance:
- Medical services – Every mine site either operates an on-site clinic or partners with external facilities that provide emergency care, primary care and health services to workers and community members.
- Health risk management – Our key health risks are predominantly related to airborne agents such as silica dust, lead, mercury, welding fumes, manganese and diesel particulate matter. We use a common risk assessment registry and methodology across regions to identify those workers who have similar high exposures to health risks (called “similar exposure groups” or SEGs); implement control management plans; and establish exposure reduction indices (ERI) – a calculation based on the number of workers in SEGs that exceed the applicable occupation exposure limit (OEL) – to quantify the exposure reduction.
- Wellness – Healthy lifestyles benefit not only the individual, but also the broader community and the Company through lower healthcare costs and fewer sick days. Given the amount of time people spend at work, we have increased our focus on preventing and reducing the risks associated with fatigue, work-related stress, obesity and other factors that impact overall wellness and mental health.
- Community/public health – Health impact assessments help us better understand the impacts of our activities on host communities. We are in the process of developing a standard to ensure greater consistency related to when and how health impact assessments are conducted. Our global pandemic preparedness guideline also helps mitigate risks to the business and communities caused by infectious disease outbreaks.
We actively participate in programs to address health issues in the mining industry as a member of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) and through industry groups, such as one in Australia that addresses exposures to diesel particulate matter.
In 2016, our Occupational Illness Frequency Rate (OIFR) increased to 0.18 from 0.06 in 2015, largely due to an increase in malaria cases in Ghana (28 in 2016 compared to nine in 2015) and an event at our Tanami operation in Australia where 12 workers were exposed to sulfurous fumes. The event occurred during preparations for a scheduled plant shutdown. Of the 12 individuals, four received first aid treatment and returned to work, and the other eight were monitored but did not require treatment.
While all our operations comply with regulations and requirements related to workplace exposures, we increased our focus during the year on identifying opportunities to further reduce exposures below the required levels. Using the 2015 baseline exposure reduction index (ERI) data, we set a target to reduce acute and chronic illness and diseases associated with exposures by 10 percent, and we exceeded that target, achieving a 16.5 percent reduction. Efforts in support of this performance included:
- To minimize exposures to harmful airborne contaminants, all operating sites implemented ERI measurement, control management plans and monitoring for their key identified health risks.
- Exposures were successfully reduced through new mitigation measures that included wet sweeping, examining welding rod products, installing diesel particulate filters, improving cab seals and adjusting ventilation designs.
Other activities in 2016 among our focus areas:
- Developed our global mental health framework for promoting and supporting the mental health of personnel and reducing the incidence of mental illness.
- Evaluated fatigue detection technologies at our operations in Ghana, Nevada and Peru and conducted a sleep study at KCGM in Australia.
- Developed a new Community Health Standard that will establish a more robust community health impact assessment process and screening on real and potential health exposures and risks. The standard will also require new assessments whenever a new impact or health risk arises in the community.
- Integrated a new corporate pandemic guideline that details health management guidelines in the event of a widespread outbreak and incorporated it into our existing event activation system.
- Continued our long-standing partnership with Project C.U.R.E., the world’s largest distributor of medical donations to developing countries. Among efforts during the year:
- Provided free medical care to more than 4,400 community members who reside near our operations in Ghana, Peru and Suriname;
- Delivered donated medical supplies valued at nearly $1.2 million to health centers near our Akyem and Merian operations in Ghana and Suriname, respectively; and
- Facilitated neonatal training for 115 healthcare providers as part of the “Helping Babies Breathe” program.
- Organized a “Fitness Challenge for Charity” initiative using an online app that promotes friendly competition among co-workers and a fun way to engage in physical activities and raise money for charities. Nearly 400 employees across all regions participated.
- Upgraded Medgate’s occupational health software, which streamlines processes, increases automation and improves data integrity while ensuring the confidentiality of medical records.
Note: Our OIFR metric includes illnesses related to airborne agents as well as noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), infectious diseases (such as malaria, tuberculosis and dengue fever) and musculoskeletal disorders. The increase in OIFR in 2016 is largely due to an increase in malaria cases in Ghana (28 in 2016 compared to nine in 2015) and an event at our Tanami operation in Australia where 12 individuals became ill after being exposed to sulfurous fumes.
* These figures include the Batu Hijau operation up until October 1, 2016; a full year of data from the Merian and Long Canyon operations, which entered commercial production in late 2016; and all exploration sites. We currently are not able to report employee and contractor OIFR data separately, and we do not collect this data by gender.
** OIFR calculations for North America do not include the Corporate Office.
Using baseline data from the end of 2016, each region will establish their 2017 exposure reduction index (ERI) and develop the applicable control measures for the identified health risk agents, similar exposure groups (SEG) and the corresponding exposure reduction targets.
Other key programs and activities planned for 2017 include:
- Installing fatigue-detection technology in our entire haul truck fleet, and in other heavy equipment as determined by each site, to help reduce the number of fatigue-related events for personnel undertaking high-risk work;
- Aligning our global mental health framework to region-specific mental health plans;
- Finalizing and implementing a Community Health Standard and integrating the health impact assessments into our overall social impact assessment process;
- Completing a health risk assessment at Merian to collect the data needed to identify any exposures in exceedance of the occupational exposure limits (OEL) and to form the development of action plans;
- Increasing our focus on the cardiovascular component of our wellness efforts through fun and engaging physical activity challenges, and improving our ability to quantify the impact of our wellness programs;
- Reviewing our current standards, workplace exposures and medical programs, updating them as appropriate and integrating them into our global Integrated Management System (IMS); and
- Initiating work to integrate the relevant United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into our business. For the “good health and well-being” goal (SDG-3) – one of our five priority SDGs and where we have in place many existing systems and projects, such as our infectious disease prevention and exposure reduction programs – we will work to set meaningful targets that align with and have the greatest impact on the goal. Recognizing the need for public-private partnerships in achieving the goals, we will also seek opportunities for collaboration both within our industry and across sectors.