The Hemlo Operations of Williams and David Bell mines are a 50/50 joint venture between gold producers Barrick and Teck. Hemlo consists of two underground mines: Williams (which includes an open-pit mine) and David Bell, located in the Hemlo Gold Camp approximately 350 kilometers east of Thunder Bay, Ontario.
The two mines share milling, processing and tailings facilities. They also share superb safety ratings, which their supervisors can readily attest to.
Peter Calnan is Superintendent, Health, Safety & Environment for Hemlo Operations reports that the Hemlo Operations have taken their responsibility for safety to a new level. “If you don’t shoot for zero, you’ll never get there. You have to believe that it is possible to attain zero harm within your organization, and empower people to stay safe on the job site.”
Recognition where it’s due
Since 2002, the Hemlo operations have been recognized by MASHA for their spectacular safety ratings. Each year from 2003-2007 the Williams mine has been recognized, and the David Bell operation has received honours in safety 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007.
The mines have also received the prestigious John T. Ryan Award on more than one occasion for the most improved operations over a 2 year period. The Williams mine received the award in 2004 and 2005, and the David Bell mine was honoured in 2002, 2006, and 2007.
Calnan says there are several aspects to the safety programs at the mines, including use of the 5point safety system along with workers conducting field level risk assessments at the work site. Calnan explains that these are some of Hemlo’s staple approaches to ensuring the internal responsibility system functions as envisioned by Dr. James Ham back in the mid 1970’s:
“The requirement for a strong safety culture should be a no brainer in mines. However, we try to take safety to a new level, focusing not just only on the standard safety practices but also on leadership. The internal responsibility system is an unwritten law which our culture embraces. But we also implement the Courageous Leadership Program, which is a process that challenges people’s beliefs and values around safety, outlines what beliefs and values people must have if they are to improve their safety performance, clearly establishes the importance of personal leadership in this change and creates an emotional basis for change. Courageous Leadership helps each employee recognize their responsibility in creating a culture of safety.”
Hemlo’s Courageous Leadership program involves every new employee – each must complete a two day program to make sure they are prepared to “do the right thing” on the job. “We have a professional and personal commitment to safety, and the measurement tools to prove it.” Courageous Leadership one-day refresher training is ongoing at the site.
Management at the mines have conducted off site brainstorming sessions with the safest employees in order to determine the most effective ways to improve safety at the site. On one occasion in 2007, there had been a series of injuries that warranted an in-depth analysis. “That particular time we had three or four injuries in a row within the same group of maintenance workers. They were minor incidences but showed that there was an area of the operation that we needed to be particularly concerned about. We shut down that group when the pattern manifested and spent a full day off site with the entire maintenance team and refocused – asking the employees: What is going wrong? What can we do better? What can you do better?” Calnan goes on to say that Hemlo’s “first priority is to make sure everyone goes home safe and healthy everyday”.
Hemlo is certainly known not only for its safety, but also its commitment to social responsibility.
Employee Relations Coordinator Roger Souckey says that social responsibility is imperative to the success of the mines.
“It’s the right thing to do”
“We want to do business right. We need to make sure that we’re taking care of the relationships with our communities of interest: How does our business impact them? What are we doing as an operation to impact others, and how do they impact us? We consider First Nations communities, national parks, cottager associations, and municipalities.”
To date the mines have recorded zero reportable environmental spills in 2008, showing an ongoing interest in minimizing environmental impact. The mines employ an environmental management system, and emergency response and crisis management system. “I think a testament to our commitment, and to our culture of safety and responsibility, would be that we invite people visiting our sites to go to anyone on the site – and regardless of their role or title, they will be able to tell you about how important safety and the environment are to Hemlo.” Souckey adds that low employee turnover is also a testament to Hemlo’s shining track record. “Within the hourly workforce, we have less than a 2% turnover rate for the entire history of the mine. People just don’t leave here very often, because we are a safe operation that focuses and engages the workforce, and in turn they contribute in ensuring our operations meet their goals and objectives.”