The safety gap
Canadian mining companies have projects around the world, and we are respected globally for our technology and expertise. The experience of working in other countries and cultures is a highlight of my career, and I would encourage anyone to work overseas if the opportunity arises.
Be careful, though. The emphasis we in Canada put on personal safety is not nearly as strong in many developing countries. This is immediately evident on the road. I found that driving habits, especially in some of these areas were extremely risky. I can vividly recall one near miss leaving an airport in northern Peru. Our driver pulled out immediately into the path of an oncoming dump truck. I can still see the look of horror on the face of the dump truck driver, whose truck, fortunately, had good brakes (which is not always a certainty!). Another important factor is that many mining projects are very remote and should a car accident occur, emergency medical assistance may be many hours away.
Furthermore, longer-term medical care and social support may not be readily available – if available at all. The enduring impact of serious injury can be devastating regardless of where it happens, but the impact is often magnified in developing countries due to the lack of post-injury support and/or alternative employment opportunities should the victim not be able to resume his or her previous role. And yet, despite this, in many of these places the tolerance for risk is enormous. This means attitudes towards workplace safety can be similarly lax – despite the intensive efforts by management to impart a culture of safety.
Canadian mining companies work very hard to instill a safety culture wherever they operate and our industry’s record on safety is exceptional. In my view, it is the most important tool in the best practices tool kit that we can bring to our foreign assignments.