August 2011


Merging cultures

By Heather Ednie

Quadra FNX zeroes in on safety

Carlota Mine ERT training

Emergency response training at Carlota Mine | Brock D. Johnston

The harmonizing of different personalities, ideals, goals and processes in an organization is a colossal undertaking, especially when it comes to safety. “A dedicated focus on safety is essential post-merger and can be particularly challenging due to integration issues,” says Michael Winship, COO of Quadra FNX, who over the past year has helped orchestrate the unification of two distinct corporate cultures following the merger of Quadra Mining and FNX Mining in May 2010.

Choosing the best approach

Creating and maintaining a strong safety program within the newly formed company started at the very top. The board of directors’ Environment, Health & Safety Committee, which includes the chair, past-chair and one other director, met with the CEO to set clear strategies. “Our board has sent a very strong message of expectations on health and safety,” Winship says. “Paul Blythe, our president and CEO, has made working safely as an integrated company a top priority.”

Winship set out to spread the message across all operations. He began by meeting with the general managers of the company’s six projects to discuss expectations. Together, they had to determine the best approach to safety for the new company, as both Quadra and FNX had followed different methodologies. “Previously, one side of the company had followed the idea that to have the right to work, you had to work safely, while the other side followed an explicit ‘zero harm’ set of values,” says Winship. “We opted to take on zero harm as the core value of our company.”

Prior to the merger, the safety performance at some of the sites was already very strong. For example, the Sudbury operation had been accident-free for 411 days and Sierra Gorda in Chile had been accident-free for the entire life of the project. However, along with these hot spots of excellence, Winship says there were still challenges in Chile and the United States that caused the company to take action. “We had a meeting with all safety professionals in the company early on to share best practices,” Winship recalls. “Throughout the year, we held an additional two meetings, as we wanted to establish a set of values that would reflect our combined company. Now, we’re in the process of rolling out those values.”

The roll-out

Once a strategy was defined, Winship took the lead and, over many site visits, set expectations with the general managers. “It has to be enforced during supervisor training and crew meetings,” he says. “Our general managers at the sites were very active in the roll-out. We do have safety professionals at each site as support, but it’s the line management that is accountable.”

Although all operations must abide by the same core values and share a number of common elements – such as safety metrics, a common reporting structure, communications and supervisory training and leadership – some latitude was allowed. Sites can adopt what safety systems fit their maturity and culture. A perfect example is the Carlota copper mine in Arizona, where two innovative safety programs are going the distance to maintain and improve a strong safety culture.

Caught in the Act

The “Caught in the Act” loss control tool was developed to recognize people for making a conscientious decision to work safely. The basic approach can be summarized by the “Soon, Certain and Positive” concept: recognizing individual behaviour right after it occurs (soon); ensuring the recognition is consistent (certain); and providing encouragement to continue the behaviour (positive).

“At Carlota, we look for opportunities everyday to use this loss control tool and it’s amazing to look at our employees’ faces and the faces of contractors when we recognize their safe behaviour with a small gift of appreciation,” says Kathy Binegar, senior HR representative.

There are specific guidelines to be followed (at least two of the following four points are required, with the first one mandatory, while the fifth is a stand-alone):

  • Individuals are wearing appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment).
  • Individuals are following proper safe work procedures.
  • Work area is clean and orderly.
  • If using mobile equipment, a pre-op has been done and documented and the mobile equipment was found choked or wheels in a parking ditch with the parking brake set.
  • Someone provided a “safety hand,” such as conducting a safety huddle with others to stop a potential incident.

The Safety League

The Carlota Safety and Health League (CSHL) was formed to increase supervisory participation in safety inspections on site. The aim was to raise the number of supervisors attending group inspections, increase the number of eyes and insight at those inspections, report safety inspection findings to the appropriate persons, and correct hazardous conditions.

Inspection seasons were established, consisting of 10 inspections shared equally among the five teams. A score card and rules were created to determine a winning team each season, and teams chose names and mottos that reflected the Hawaiian culture:

  • Duke Kahanamoku: Safety – Ride the Wave
  • The Big Kahunas: Don’t Surf Past Safety
  • Los Paniolos (The Hawaiian Cowboys): A Safe Quitting Time for Work
  • The Islanders: Safety Makes Good Things Happen
  • Pele’s Pit Sludge Predators: Personal Investment – Maximum Results

The reason for these names stemmed from a question employees were asked before the merger: “If you could come to work each day and feel like you were working in paradise, what would it be like?” One employee answered: “It would feel like being in Hawaii” – and it stuck.

The results speak volumes. Working with people from different departments has given employees a greater understanding of the total operation. In turn, more potential hazards have been uncovered and addressed. By this past February, two inspection seasons were completed – resulting in more than 150 possible citable issues remedied – 200 safety suggestions were made, and 50 Caught in the Act citations were issued.

Making safety everyone’s business

Allowing the various sites to help set their own safety systems has brought a much-needed energy to the effort. “It has been embraced at the sites – they like the ability to tailor their own plans and are all off and running,” Winship says. “You need to keep things fresh and bring energy in to get to zero. We’re definitely strengthening the focus across the company.”

Post a comment


PDF Version