Most people wouldn’t say 2021 was a great year, for obvious reasons. But there’s more to life than COVID, and the fact is 2021 was a great year for our operations in Long Harbour in Newfoundland and Labrador. Our colleagues there had many successes worth noting and celebrating including record-high production coupled with record-lows for nickel unit costs and energy efficiency.
And there’s more. Long Harbour also saw injury rates reduced by 50 percent and environmental incidents reduced by 56 percent. Carl O’Brien, manager, Health & Safety & Operational Risk, and Jared Saunders, supervisor, Environment, talked with Vale News about how the Long Harbour team did it.
In 2021, a Risk Awareness Training program for all employees helped to reduce our injury frequencies in all categories by 50 percent. This includes a range of injuries from simple first aid to types that are recordable to more serious injuries that require medical aid (stitches, soft tissues injury), restricted work (needs to be assigned to other work) and lost time injuries.
The training modules, which took about three months to cycle through all teams, were half a day in length and were led by three facilitators from leadership and by Health & Safety and Risk leads. Training will continue as people onboard.
“Our teams start their day by listing their tasks on a Task Risk Impact + Action Map,” Carl explained. “They collaborate to assess if any risks are not in control. Where there is an uncontrolled risk, the team completes a simplified bowtie to identify any actions required to manage the risk.”
A bowtie is a process for identifying where new or enhanced controls may be required and is part of risk management planning.
Carl said that bowties are done before the beginning of each task, and SLAM forms are completed. SLAM stands for Stop, Look, Assess, Manage, and the form asks questions that prompt employees to identify risks such as: Is the task non-routine or are conditions abnormal?
“This approach has increased our risk awareness and has helped us move the dial for our risk management.”
Carl said the next focus for Long Harbour will be incorporating critical risk management with the existing risk management routines. Critical risk management training will begin in first quarter of this year.
Long Harbour was also one of the leading sites for identifying and reporting N3 events—an event that could cause a life-changing injury or fatality. So far, the team at Long Harbour is continuing its pace for N3 reporting in 2022 after reporting 130 N3 events last year. The goal with identifying and reporting potential N3 events is to prevent them from happening. The more risk-aware we are, the better positioned we are to go home safe.
Championing the Environment
Jared is proud of the work that the plant has done to reduce environmental events by 56 percent in the last year. Jared explained that the term “events” include anything that gets released unintentionally into the environment. It can be as small as a couple of drops of oil to a major spill.
“We are getting better at planning our work and thinking about the potential environmental impacts, before we start working,” he said.
Long Harbour created an Environment Awareness program (offered from March to December 2021), which worked hand-in-hand with the broader Risk Awareness Training program that the site has undertaken. Every employee on site (both Vale and Contractors) took a computer-based online module, while supervisors took a more in-depth online module, and superintendents and managers participated in a four-hour in-class discussion-based training session.
“We developed a program that designed the training to correspond with the various levels within the organization,” Jared said. “Having buy-in at all levels — from the floor up, as well as input from management down — is what allowed this program to succeed.”
Learnings from the programs have spawned a poster with QR codes for forms to complete. It is about making the daily lives easier for our employees on-site and knowing what to do, and when. The plant will continue its environmental awareness journey as it works towards ISO 140001 certification this year. Our Clydach Nickel Refinery in Wales achieved this certification in 2017, and when we get it under our belts in Long Harbour and Voisey’s Bay, we will be first Vale operations in Canada to have it.3
Fun fact: Last October, our company received independent third-party assurance that the carbon footprint of Long Harbour’s nickel rounds is a third of Nickel Institute’s average for Class 1 nickel. For more information, click here.