Home PAPTAC 2018 PWC/BIOFOR Coverage Safety: a value across industries

Safety: a value across industries

Different industries have a common language and it is called safety, says Eric Ashby, mill manager of Domtar's Windsor facility. Similar to the lead Domtar takes in the papermaking industry, companies like Suncor and Rio Tinto provide solid demonstrations of organizations doing more to reduce injuries and make the workplace safer.

In 1998, 10 Rio Tinto miners died in Australia, changing the landscape of workplace safety culture forever, recalled Alain Robinson, General Manager Safety, for RioTinto Aluminium (RTA). Around that time, the safety performance was about 6,44 and it did not take into account injuries experienced by contractors. Today, this index has come down to 0,44, the best year ever registered by the company.

"Back in the early 2000s, there were no global systems, only local initiatives," Robinson notes. To build a global strategy, RT decided to adopt a balanced approach to injury prevention, education and risk management. The mining company focused largely on engaging directly with its employees. "We cannot succeed if our employees do not feel safe to talk or to suggest improvements," Robinson said.

Alain Robinson

Over the years, RT focused on risk assessment (2007), then on controls (2010), and now they are seized with human performance. "Even the best employees will make mistakes. Our leaders need to be more accountable and we need to introduce better safety standards," Robinson emphasized.

In other words, there need to be critical controls in place long before a worker walks onto a job site. Every employee is considered responsible for safety, with supervisors taking on the task of additional verifications on the most critical issues.

The company also pointed out 'error traps,' where employees are most likely to make mistakes. "Someone who does not know the job is more likely to make an error. And it is the same if you are leaving for a vacation or coming back from a few days off," Robinson acknowledged.

Suncor Energy has set in motion a similar plan to better engage its employees on the development and implementation of safety procedures, reports Frederic Blais, Manager of Operations. "We have developed a safety culture where every worker is responsible for his or her own safety and for the safety of his or her peers," he notes.

Over the years, safety has also become a condition of employment. For every 50 workers, Suncor trains one Environment health and safety coordinator. They created a weekly safety toolbox meeting and a safety joint committee. "Accidents have been reduced a lot but our challenge now is to improve reporting of near-misses," Blais explained. In 2017, Suncor reported no major accidents and a record 4.56 injuries per 200,000 working hours at its Montreal facility.

Frederic Blais

The company prioritizes safety not only for its regular employees, but also for its many visiting contractors. "Every contractor has now a safety training," confirmed Blais.

In an instance where too many workplace injuries or accidents have occurred, work grinds to a halt for staff to take stock of what is going wrong and what can improve. "There were five safety incidents in a short period of time and we decided to stop working until an action plan was developed by the contractor. This pause lasted for nine days," Blais recounted.

Good results rely heavily on making leaders accountable for their actions. This attitude will transcend a spirit and commitment to safety throughout the organization, says Blais. "We need to make sure everybody talks about safety."

Eric Ashby

According to Eric Ashby, hiring the right staff in the first place is key, but the loss of so much experience, corporate and industrial knowledge with the amount of people retiring, (upwards of 80 retirements annually) is a huge challenge. That's where technology comes into play. Domtar's reliance on an industrial social network, Poka, to help transfer knowledge, is helping the company overcome this hurdle. "We created two minutes videos to build a safety database and better defenses for our employees," Blais reported proudly.

Guillaume Roy,


Precision Roll Grinders

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