SOURCE: marcus evans

marcus evans

June 21, 2013 09:48 ET

Strengthening Health and Safety Platforms: A Discussion With Sophie Bergeron, Director, Safety and Health at Goldcorp Inc.

TORONTO--(Marketwired - Jun 21, 2013) -  Mining industry leaders have long focused on enhancing safety management systems and safety culture. However, the dangers associated with mining are on the rise, particularly as companies move to more remote and less hospitable regions. Along with rapid changes in mining technology, growing criminal liability issues and the continual merging of mining operations, it has become clear that organizations need to revisit their safety programs.

As a speaker at the upcoming marcus evans Health and Safety Excellence in Mining Conference, in Toronto, ON, July 24-25, 2013, Ms. Bergeron offers her expertise in health and safety platforms for the Mining and Metals industries.

How, besides reducing incident rates and fatalities, can an organization measure a successful health and safety program?

Sophie Bergeron: When a company does well at implementing and communicating safety programs, you can easily see how strong the culture inside the company is. Just by talking with employees and looking at workplace practices, you get a very good appreciation of the safety programs' results. We also consider reporting and quality of safety interventions excellent measurements of our success. When you get people to do appropriate reporting it means that they recognize hazards and manage them properly. On the same note, when you see good safety interventions in the field, it's an excellent sign of a successful safety program and a well-implemented safety culture.

Where does Goldcorp's focus lie with regards to current challenges to optimizing health and safety?

SB: Our current focus is on eliminating fatalities. We have designated the work we are doing now as 'Fighting Fatalities' as we actively work on preventing fatalities. We believe that no one should die because of Goldcorp, and we also believe that we can prevent all fatalities in our workplaces.

What strategies have you seen or taken to improve health and safety due to recent changes in technology?

SB: We believe that technology can be harnessed to prevent incidents, so we strongly encourage all initiatives to better use available technologies. Of course, before doing so, all potential risks of these new technologies need to be assessed and managed. Utilization of technology normally means more skilled people and advanced training, so we have processes in place to ensure we have the right people and provide them with the best training. 

Taking a risk-based approach to health and safety is seen as necessary by many, if not most industry leaders. Are there common challenges to adopting this type of approach? If you have this type of approach in place already, how can you bring it to another level of maturity?

SB: We work in an industry that carries risk, and we can't avoid dealing with those risks. The challenge of a risk-based approach is enabling your stakeholders to recognize those risks. Each activity has to be planned and organized, but if the inherent risks are not well identified before doing so, it could lead to an incident. Because we all process information differently, we also tend to see things from different perspectives. With our 'Time to Act' program, we have training that is focused on hazard recognition and effective interventions. In order to be effective, a risk-based approach must rely on two important aspects, caring and knowing. We have worked hard on our safety culture at Goldcorp and we care about our people. But recognizing risks requires knowledge and tools. We are now in the process of raising our people's risk awareness and teaching them useful tools to proactively manage risks in their day-to-day work.

What is the best way to build a cohesive strong safety culture both from the top-down and bottom up?

SB: We believe it has to come from the top first. Leading by example is a very strong message for all employees. Leading by example can also be done within a work team, and by engaging your stakeholders you can achieve more than expected. We have a program at Goldcorp, called 'Time to Act', that aims to generate a need for change for the leadership. In order to create change, you have to first generate the need for this change. This is exactly what 'Time to Act' does.

That said, it must come from the bottom-up as well. In order for safety culture to be sustainable, it has to come from each individual within the organization. It is a belief.

What do you hope to take away from the Health and Safety Excellence in Mining conference?

SB: Sharing different perspectives and experiences is part of the key to our continuous improvement process in safety and health. Why wait for things to happen within our organization to learn from our experiences, when you can leverage others' lessons learned.

Sophie Bergeron is the Director, Safety and Health for the corporation, leveraging her technical and continuous improvement skills to improve Safety and Health at Goldcorp. Sophie holds a Bachelor's degree in Mining Engineering from the École Polytechnique de Montréal and began her career in Northern Quebec fifteen years ago. Since then, she has held various positions in the mining engineering field such as open pit engineer, underground production engineer, project engineer, underground supervisor, and continuous improvement superintendent.

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