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HIRA? Check! Next: A major step-change in fatality prevention at Vale

September 29, 2021

This is just one HIRA example of many that took place at Vale across four continents. Thanks to HIRA, our Administration Building in Sudbury and surrounding area was de-risked with the removal of an emptied “bullet”-shaped propane tank. The building is now heated by natural gas, considered one of the safest and cleanest fossil fuels. Photos: Vale Archive

When you see a message in your inbox from our Base Metals CEO Mark Travers and it begins, “I am pleased…,” it’s an excellent reason to keep reading.

That particular message, dated August 30, was a virtual high five across our Base Metals operations for not just meeting but, in Mark’s words, “exceeding,” every target of our two-year-long Hazard Identification and Risk Analysis (HIRA) project.

The purpose of HIRA is to identify the greatest risks to people, the environment and communities, and then to initiate immediate actions with a non-negotiable six-month timeline to appropriately resolve and manage those risks. 

In his message, Mark wrote that HIRA took “tremendous focus and determination” across four continents including Canada, the UK, Brazil, New Caledonia, Indonesia and Japan.

This is what success looks like  

Vale employees in Indonesia collaborate on HIRA. Senior leadership credits all Base Metals employees for making HIRA a success by owning and executing it. Photo: Vale Archive

HIRA was developed through a collaborative process involving key leaders from Base Metals and the Corporate team, with the input of stakeholders from across the business. After four months of development and planning, it was unveiled in New Caledonia in August 2019. 

“Developing the program is not a huge part of what happened so much as the sense of ownership and pride in execution that made HIRA special,” downplayed Justin, manager, Enterprise Risk for Base Metals, who was involved in building the program. 

In March 2020, before COVID-19, more than one hundred leaders and technical specialists from across Vale were deployed simultaneously across Canada and Brazil conducting HIRA. That level of participation is only possible when every area of the business, from Operations to functional departments, steps in to deliver on a shared goal.

“That level of ownership is unparalleled,” Justin said. “We were all in it together. To ensure we realized the full extent of this opportunity, we paired our internal teams with industry-leading subject matter experts from across the globe – a step that allowed us to drive best practices across the business.” 

In late March 2020, COVID-19 had made its rounds across the globe, but it didn’t hamper HIRA – or the strict timeline. “To do this, and in the midst of a pandemic, is remarkable,” said Justin. “The teams worked tirelessly to deliver results safely across our operations”. 

HIRA in action 

One HIRA example took place at our Sudbury site last year. The General Administration building had long been heated by liquid propane gas (LPG), which was stored in significant quantities on site. Thanks to the HIRA process, the area was de-risked with the removal of the emptied “bullet”-shaped propane tank, and the building is now heated by natural gas, considered one of the safest and cleanest fossil fuels. 

Another example, which Vale News covered in December 2020, was the removal of liquid chlorine rail cars from our operations in Port Colborne. (Scroll to the end for the link.) 

If HIRA is “the cornerstone of our response to Brumadinho and demonstrates the resolve of the business to prevent catastrophic risk” as Justin described it, the next project, Critical Risk Management (CRM), has the potential to see our operations become fatality-free. 

Next step: Critical Risk Management (CRM)

“CRM is proven,” Justin continued. “Globally, it has been implemented across more than 700 mines and surface plants elsewhere and has been proven time and again to enable companies to achieve fatality-free operations.” 

CRM, in a nutshell, is a single fatality and catastrophic risk prevention program that establishes layers of checks for activities associated with known fatal risks. 

“Our next step is to lean into our competitive advantage and deliver CRM faster and at a greater depth of implementation than has been done before, to embed it into our culture so everyone goes home safe.”

“When we embed CRM,” Justin added, “it will be a major step-change in fatality prevention at Vale, and we are eager to get it going.”

Click here to read about the removal of liquid chlorine tanks from our Port Colborne site.

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