Luminant Mining’s shift in safety and reliability practices encouraged mine employees to be proactive about reporting risks | Photo courtesy of Luminant
When 100 mining sector professionals came together at the second annual Safety Management & System Reliability Conference, the general consensus was
that accidents must be prevented before they happen. The event, held at the Minneapolis Marriott City Center and organized by CIM and the Society for
Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME), featured a technical program dedicated to identifying processes and strategies that companies can implement to
reduce safety incidents and to improve reliability.
Jean Sweeney, vice-president of environmental, health and safety operations for 3M, opened the conference with a presentation about the 110-year-old
technology company’s commitment to safety and process reliability. According to Sweeney, it is vital to create a working culture that espouses the ideals
of both safety and reliability. She explained how the complete integration of safety and reliability into all aspects of 3M’s operation – from principles
to processes and training of staff – has allowed the company to excel in this arena.
The importance of incorporating a strong safety culture into training programs was emphasized in a presentation by Matthew Main, Freeport-McMoRan’s Climax
mine health and safety manager. Main pointed out that when the mine restarted operations in 2012, and management needed to hire from outside the industry
to fill the 300 job openings, developing a strong safety culture became a top priority.
The role of reliability was also touted as an essential component. Dennis Jackson, vice-president at Behavioral Science Technology (BST), spoke of the
need to establish a culture of reliability to prevent catastrophic injury and examined the cultural factors that may fail to protect against fatality
events. It is quite common for management to say something like, “We have a great safety record and our recordable injury rate is among the lowest,” he
revealed. But, according to Jackson, a solid safety record is only part of the solution, as leaders must also understand what having a culture of
reliability and safety means, while identifying actions required to build such a culture. “World-class companies are the ones in which people are engaged
in safety and reliability, and they are looking at the right things,” he explains.
A case study examining how Luminant Mining transformed its approach to safety and reliability by adopting a “Just Culture” approach cemented the
importance of integrating safe and reliable practices. In his presentation, Luminant’s director of maintenance George Boudreau explained that the old
reactive way of dealing with incidents led to a punishment-driven environment, where staff did not feel at ease providing essential information that could
prevent incidents. When Luminant adopted a new attitude, where the distinction between willful violations and unintentional errors was recognized, it made
staff feel more comfortable reporting issues, and in turn it allowed the mining company to both identify latent weaknesses and be proactive about
While building a safety culture was at the forefront of discussions, technology also got its 15 minutes. Justin Johnsen, product manager of maintenance
systems at Modular Mining Systems, noted that while technology is not a silver bullet, it can help organizations transform the industry. Johnsen’s
presentation, “Lean on me: How lean processes can improve equipment reliability,” focused on how technology can improve reliability. Other presenters who
focused on this topic included Gerald McElrea of Hatch, who spoke about reliability improvements through defect elimination, and Roger Marchand of BAY6
Solutions, who explained how employing advanced magnetic filtration for controlling ferrous contamination in fluids can help with early failure detection.
The third annual symposium on safety and reliability in the mining and resources industries will be held October 20 to 22, 2013, at the Hilton Toronto.