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Vale is serious about this game

January 26, 2022

According to Blake Symons, Mines Training instructor in Thompson, “This is an image from the augmented reality lenses that are attached to the hard hat. The augmented ‘person’ is demonstrating the correct position to isolate the switch for the conveyor simulator,” Blake said. “It was not easy to position the camera and helmet to take this picture,” he added, “credit goes to Michael Gallant and Scott Spates for getting the shot!”

It looks like a hardhat except it has built-in glasses that flip down, and when you look through them, the physical world around you suddenly… pops! This is augmented reality, a cornucopia of visual and auditory stimuli, and while it’s commonly associated with gaming, in this scenario it’s serious business. 

“It’s a participative, tactile learning methodology to improve risk assessment and management,” said Michele Gilbert, manager, North Atlantic Learning & Development, on a recent call with Vale News. Michele explained how augmented reality is a key component of the new dojo, a 1000-square-foot interactive training facility located in the Valer Education building in Thompson, MB. 

What is a dojo? 

Thompson Dojo ribbon-cutting ceremony. Manitoba operations leaders, from left: Blake Symons, Mines Training, Learning & Development, Gary Annett, head, Dayna Waring, manager, Operational Excellence, Mines, Mill & Divisional Shops, and Stacy Kennedy, manager, Health, Safety & Risk. Photo: Vale Archive

While our global operations have had dojos for a while, Thompson is the first North Atlantic operation to have one. It was successfully piloted in December 2021 and had a ribbon-cutting ceremony on January 20, 2022. A number of Vale leaders and employees, including Deshnee Naidoo, executive vice president of Base Metals, and Alfredo Santana, chief operating officer of North Atlantic Operations, attended the ceremony virtually, and a select few were onsite including Manitoba leaders Gary Annett, head of Operations, Dayna Waring, manager, Operational Excellence, Mines, Mill & Divisional Shops, Stacy Kennedy, manager, Health, Safety & Risk and Blake Symons, Mines Training, Learning & Development.

“Dojo” is a Japanese word that many of us associate with the training space used in karate or other martial arts. Vale dojos, including the one in Thompson, are also for training, but ours are specifically for assessing and managing risk. Through repeated techniques and movements, participants develop muscle memory and operational discipline, appropriate behaviours and skills, to improve their safety awareness and risk perception. 

“We all pick up bad habits and we can all become complacent,” Michele pointed out. “Through muscle memory – by doing and repeating – we train ourselves to respond safely, almost instinctively.”  

Words to live by 

To enter the dojo, participants pass through an archway inscribed at the top with: “Safe Work is the Door to All Other Work” and “Let’s Go Through that Door Together.” On the left pillar are Vale’s Golden Rules, and on the right, are the dojo’s key objectives: Life Matters Most, Safe Work, Reliable Work and Skilled Work. Inside, participants filter through workstations with hands-on simulations in health and safety protocols and practices, about 35 per cent of which involve augmented reality scenarios. 

“For example, as you look through the glasses, you see a personnel carrier that you’re instructed to board using three-point contact. However, one of the seatbelts is broken. The desired result is for the participant to identify this safety hazard, and to take appropriate action. It’s a real-life incident,” Michele continued, “one that actually happened at Vale, which makes it more meaningful and impactful for participants.” 

Kudos to collaboration 

Michele noted that the Thompson dojo, which began planning in March 2021, was a collaborative effort by Health & Safety, Operational Excellence, and Learning & Development, and benefited greatly by the expertise and experience of the Global team, including Leonardo Faleiro. 

“Implementing the Thompson’s dojo was challenging due to the pandemic, distance and different cultures,” said Leonardo, VPS Technical specialist, who is based in Brazil. “Although technology helped a lot, it was the teamwork and commitment of those involved that made it a success. I’m sure we will reap fruit from the seed we have planted. I am proud and grateful to be part of this team.”

Michele also expressed her thanks to the entire team, and noted the support she and the Canadian contingent received from the Global team. 

Now that the Thompson dojo is now officially open for business, what’s next? According to Michele, the next two years will see all Thompson employees trained in the dojo, and during that time, the Learning and Development team will be looking at how to cost-effectively get the dojo to other North Atlantic locations. Stay tuned!

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