Exposure to chemicals, dust and noise; repetitive, forceful or vibrating motion; and infectious diseases are examples of health risks in mining, while fatigue, stress, obesity and depression are risks all employers face. We work to protect the health and promote the wellbeing of those who work at and live near our operations.
Our global standards detail the minimum requirements for managing work-related and community health risks while guidelines and operating procedures support compliance with these requirements.
Following a global review of our current health and wellness practices and programs in 2018, we are developing a global occupational health and wellness strategy to effectively manage our risks and achieve our goals. The strategy will focus on four key areas: exposure management, medical management, wellness and community and public health.
Workplace health risks
An important element of our approach is our health risk management (HRM) program, which identifies our top workplace health hazards – predominantly related to airborne agents such as silica dust, lead, mercury, welding fumes, manganese and diesel particulate matter – and measures our ability to reduce exposure to these hazards. Because it is not practical to assess each individual’s risk, we identify groups of workers with similar exposures (called “similar exposure groups” or SEGs). Control management plans monitor the effectiveness of critical controls, and baselines are calculated at the beginning of the year to quantify the exposure reduction and measure our performance.
Every mine site either operates an on-site clinic or partners with external facilities that provide emergency care, primary care and health services to Company personnel and community members. Sites also have health and wellness initiatives to encourage healthy lifestyles and reduce the risks associated with fatigue, work-related stress, obesity and other factors that impact overall wellness and mental health. Our global pandemic preparedness guideline helps mitigate risks to the business and communities caused by infectious disease outbreaks.
Community and public health
In line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we are working toward advancing SDG-3 – good health and wellbeing – by tracking communicable and non-communicable diseases in our workforce and by improving community health and access to healthcare through health impact assessments, investments in community healthcare infrastructure, and partnerships with external experts, NGOs, government agencies and global health organizations such as Project C.U.R.E. We also work with International SOS – a global organization with extensive experience in malaria prevention and treatment – at our sites located in tropical regions.
We track occupational illnesses for our employees by measuring exposures associated with acute and chronic illnesses and by using an Occupational Illness Frequency Rate (OIFR) that reports the number of work-related incidents.
We actively participate in programs to address health issues in the mining industry as a member of ICMM and through industry groups and initiatives, such as the Cooperative Research Centre for Alertness, Safety and Productivity in Australia, which brings together technology companies, academics, regulators and employers to develop new technologies that help protect workers and drivers from fatigue.
(per 200,000 hours worked)
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.
* These figures include 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.
Compared to 2017, our OIFR increased slightly to 0.10. To improve consistency in our reporting and better align with ICMM’s guidelines and classifications on reporting injuries and illnesses data, we piloted an updated method for measuring our OIFR. This new method will be rolled out in 2019.
In 2018, all sites that set a 2017 baseline measure for exposures associated with acute and chronic illnesses reduced exposure rates by 69 percent from the 2017 baseline, and all sites met their target to reduce exposures for their top three similar exposure groups (SEG) by 50 percent through engineering controls. Our Merian operation established its exposure baseline in 2018 and will be included in future targets.
Among the key activities during the year:
- Developed a global occupational health and wellness strategy: The strategy aims to ensure we have the foundational components and relevant programs needed for each site to manage its key health risks. Areas of focus for 2019 include approving the strategic framework and revising and refreshing the supporting systems. Implementation of the strategy is expected over the next three to five years.
- Expanded use of fatigue detection technology: As part of our broader fatigue management and wellbeing approach, we expanded the installation of fatigue detection technology beyond our haul truck fleet. Our Merian operation in Suriname tested the technology in five buses used to transport employees between Paramaribo and the site (a distance of around 175 kilometers of which 70 kilometers is unpaved road). Due to the success of the pilot, Merian added the technology to five more buses and our Tanami operation in Australia implemented the technology on six buses. Merian also engaged an independent expert to conduct a fatigue risk evaluation that looked at sleeping situations at site and rosters. Findings were used to create a management action plan that includes improved sleeping arrangements, on-site sleeping assessments and additional training.
- Renewed partnership with Project C.U.R.E.: To advance the UN Sustainable Development Goal that aims to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages (SDG-3), we renewed our long-standing partnership with Project C.U.R.E. More than 3,100 community members who reside near our operations in Ghana and Suriname attended health fairs and clinics, and we shipped donated medical supplies valued at more than $1.9 million to health centers in Ghana and Suriname. Through the partnership, we also facilitate neonatal training as part of the Helping Babies Breathe program. Highlights of this program are discussed in the featured case study. In 2019, we will develop new outcome indicators to measure how our efforts and programs impact the health of our workforce and host communities.
- Promoted health and wellness: Our regions and sites participated in numerous health and wellness programs including our Yanacocha operation working with the Cajamarca regional health office to provide medical care to community members in the region. Throughout the year, sites and offices across the organization launched campaigns to raise awareness on health and wellness issues such as prostate cancer, breast cancer, malaria and suicide prevention.