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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:

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.

2016 Performance

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.
Occupational Illness Frequency Rate (OIFR) by region* (per 200,000 hours worked)
Region 2014 2015 2016
Africa 0.14 0.15 0.50
Asia Pacific 0.05 0.00 0.41
North America** 0.02 0.02 0.00
South America 0.80 0.02 0.00
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.

Future Focus

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.