We aim to optimize employee health and well-being because poor health may increase the risk of injury and illness and can decrease productivity.
We seek to identify and manage the risks arising from physical, chemical and other workplace hazards by anticipating, identifying, evaluating and controlling these health hazards and exposures. To accomplish this, our sites carry out specific occupational health activities and programs, depending on the exposure at each site.
Barrick’s Safety & Health Policy and Safety & Health Management System are the primary tools that guide our efforts towards achieving zero incidents. They require safety and occupational health evaluation, planning and design to be integrated into our business development strategies.
Barrick monitors all sites to work to ensure they are meeting industrial hygiene standards, including regulations on dust, noise control, and ergonomics. Barrick also promotes wellness, including stop-smoking programs, fatigue management, travel security training, and other initiatives. Through data collection and monitoring, we have identified respiratory illness, improper body positioning that contributes to sprains and strains, fatigue, and poor lifestyle health as the top health risks within the company. We have put in place a number of programs to address these risks, described below.
Elimination of occupational illness and injuries continued to be a focus at Barrick during 2015. Priority objectives included health exposure determinations and mitigation actions, mitigation of physical demands for top high-risk tasks, and providing functional capacity evaluations for newly hired and transferred employees. Our 2016 strategy will remain the same and sites will continue to report progress.
Respiratory illness is a concern within the mining industry and, without proper controls in place, is difficult to detect since symptoms are often not present until years after exposure. Barrick has industrial hygiene programs that identify exposure agents such as dust, gases, and fumes, which are tracked in a database management system. This helps us to better identify exposure to agents and allows us to develop measures to mitigate these exposures. We do so with engineering controls such as dust collection systems and ventilation systems. When systems are being installed or repaired, or where engineering controls simply are not enough, Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) such as respirators, are used to protect our workers.
Barrick implemented a Respiratory Protection Standard across the company in 2012, and we conduct periodic Assurance Reviews against the Standard, at a minimum of every two years at each site. In addition, through our Health and Wellness program, we conduct periodic medical checks for employees who have a high risk for respiratory illness (such as employees who are frequently exposed to silica or lead).
Sprains and strains are currently the second-leading cause of injuries within Barrick. We recognize that placement of employees in positions that they are not physically or mentally capable of fulfilling can cause many of these injuries. To keep people safe, our workers must be physically able to do the job they have been hired to do.
Through our Health and Wellness program, we evaluate job positions within the company for physical requirements. Each of our sites has identified the ten most physically demanding jobs, as well as those that were associated with the most sprains and strains. Each site has an annual target of reducing the heavy physical demands of the job to reduce the risk of injury.
Along with physical demand studies, we are focused on ergonomics awareness and training for our employees in order to reduce sprains and strains. By 2016, all employees at our mine sites or in at-risk positions will be evaluated against the physical demand requirements for their job.
Fatigue is inherent in any operation where employees work late into the night, start early in the morning, or work long hours. It is generally believed that fatigue can negatively affect an operation in many ways: fatigued employees are less productive, more prone to health problems, more likely to quit and, most important, more likely to be in an accident. We turned our attention to fatigue in 2011 and began to develop a Fatigue Risk Management Standard (FRMS) using the science of circadian physiology. This Standard is now implemented across the company and provides a consistent structure and approach to program components such as training, work scheduling and monitoring. At the same time, we investigated how we could identify fatigue episodes on the job.
In past years, some individual Barrick mines purchased their own devices for fatigue measurement, primarily based on the manufacturer’s testimonial. Barrick’s in-house research and development team conducted an independent study of fatigue measurement devices at three sites. Results showed that fatigue was a problem for only a small percentage of employees, usually due to lifestyle or a medical condition. More importantly, many of the devices tested were less than accurate at identifying fatigue episodes. As a result, we have decided to focus on the percentage of employees who have trouble working night shifts and getting adequate rest.
To this end, Barrick is currently evaluating the use of “Wearable Wellness" technology that will provide information such as heart rate, oxygen saturation, and how well the individual may have slept the previous night. This feedback can help workers identify ways to help combat fatigue and improve their overall health. In addition, Barrick has a specific training course for shift workers called Managing a Mining Lifestyle. This four-hour course focuses on personal changes a worker can make in his or her lifestyle to improve both family time and work time. It also looks at sleep/wake times and hours of sleep during the day and night, and includes an employee survey to better understand commute times, sleep schedules and worker preferences. Through the Managing a Mining Lifestyle course and working with our management teams, our aim is to develop a culture where employees are comfortable reporting fatigue.
Poor lifestyle health can increase the risk of injury and illness. That is why a few years ago we began to look at what we could do to help employees in North America become healthier. We developed a biometric screening program, offered free to employees and their families, which includes on-site health check-ups and review of results, along with advice from a wellness coach, if desired. The program tries to combat such health-related issues as increased obesity and cardiovascular diseases brought on by aging and lifestyle choices, such as lack of exercise, smoking and poor nutrition. Incentives are offered to employees to take advantage of this program, which has resulted in increased participation. The focus of the biometric program is to encourage employees to take ownership of their health, and their families’ health, before serious health issues arise. The program has been growing each year as more employees and their families participate.
HIV/AIDS and malaria remain a health problem for employees and community members in Zambia and Papua New Guinea. We have programs in place, often in collaboration with NGO partners, to address these illnesses, including HIV/AIDS Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT), HIV/AIDS awareness, peer educators, anti-retroviral therapy (ART) and mosquito abatement. These programs have both on-site and community components. One hundred percent of at-risk employees and their families (with regard to HIV/AIDS and/or malaria) are currently eligible to receive preventative initiatives or treatment. Affected employees and their families are receiving treatment, highly subsidized or free of charge.
In addition, Barrick jointly published key quantitative results from our collaborative “Acceptability of Male Circumcision for HIV Prevention in Papua New Guinea" study. Many of the results from the study have been presented at various conferences, workshops and policy forums over the past two years; however, this is the first time they have been published together in a peer-reviewed journal article in BMC Public Health, an open access journal.
Industrial hygienists use environmental monitoring and analytical methods to detect the extent of worker exposure to contaminants and employ engineering work practice controls and other methods to control potential health hazards. Our hygienists have developed a global database to collect exposure data, which is helping us identify areas where controls are lacking or inadequate.
At the end of 2014, Barrick initiated a review of our internal Occupational Exposure Limits through a third-party professional consultant. The objective was to review peer-reviewed scientific studies related to hazardous agents and through recommendations and toxicological models, establish the most appropriate Exposure Limit Values to ensure our workers will not suffer adverse effects associated with exposure to these substances. In addition to establishing an Exposure Limit (in workplace air), the review will also provide "good practice" guidance on the most up-to-date procedures for biological monitoring of certain blood or urine metabolites associated with the substance to ensure the substance either does not exist or is at a safe level that would not cause any adverse effect. The review was completed in June 2015 and confirmed that our biological sampling for arsenic conformed to best practice and no adjustment to our current sampling and analysis was necessary.
Our vision is the generation of wealth through responsible mining — wealth for our owners, our people, and the countries and communities with which we partner.
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