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Reinforcing Safety through Vital Behaviors

Creating a workplace that is free of injuries and occupational illness requires more than Health and Safety standards and systems. It requires employees and contractors to constantly choose and demonstrate safe behaviors. These behaviors are part of Newmont’s Culture of Zero Harm.

Through Vital Behaviors, an employee-driven process launched by Newmont during 2011–2013, employees identified by members of their crews as “opinion leaders” were asked to name three to four behaviors specific to their work areas (Mine Operations, Mine Maintenance, Processing, Support) that would make the greatest impact on safety. Opinion leaders also developed strategies to motivate and enable fellow workers to consistently choose these Vital Behaviors especially when that choice could have a huge impact on the outcome.

Employees-display-commitment-banner-with-their-signatures-at-Akyem
Employees display commitment banner with their signatures at Akyem.

“In almost every situation, there is one crucial moment when the right behavior has the potential to turn around or change an event,” explained Terry Terranova, Global Director of Change Management – Health & Safety. “Identifying what these behaviors are, then enabling and motivating them, is what the Vital Behaviors program is all about.”

At our Africa operations, one strategy to motivate Vital Behaviors involves bringing photos of loved ones to work. By wearing small laminated photos of their families on their lanyards, employees are reminded of the people who are counting on them to return home safe every day.

Vital Behaviors are also encouraged among the families of miners. Many of our worksites host family days during which family members visit the mines and learn about the Vital Behaviors they can adopt to help keep their loved ones safe. These frequently include making sure the miners get adequate sleep and eat healthy meals.

Several of our sites also motivate Vital Behaviors through small recognitions. At a few sites, employees and contractors award each other Vital Behavior hardhat stickers (Newmont’s “safety badges of honor”) when they’ve “caught each other” demonstrating Vital Behaviors.

While the Vital Behaviors vary from worksite to worksite and country to country, there are some common themes. These include ensuring that proper risk assessments are conducted, complying with all procedures, not taking shortcuts when tempted, and speaking up when less safe behaviors are exhibited by coworkers.

Pre-shift-safety-interaction-at-Gold-Quarry-mine-in-Nevada
Pre-shift safety interaction at Gold Quarry mine in Nevada.

“Around the globe, our employees said that if they would speak up to each other and their supervisors, their worksite would be safer,” said Terranova.

But because speaking up is also one of the most difficult Vital Behaviors to practice, Newmont facilitates sessions at most of our worksites to help employees know what to say during awkward or challenging interactions about safety.

We also take measures to ensure employees and contractors feel empowered to speak against and respond to less safe behaviors. For example, at our operations in Indonesia, where employees are shuttled to work by bus, miners would occasionally bang their hardhats on seatbacks to get bus drivers to drive faster. Today, large-format graphics and messaging on the sides of our buses remind passengers, and others on the road, that bus drivers will pull over if conditions present risks.

While many other efforts to improve safety are in place, our Total Recordable Accident Frequency Rates (the industry measurement of safety incidents that occur on the job per 200,000 of hours worked) decreased from 0.69 in 2011 to 0.47 in 2013.

One of the reasons Terranova suspects the Vital Behaviors program is effective is because employees are the ones providing the strategies and influence for change rather than just the executives. “So often, change is simply handed down from the top, and we think that if executives broadcast it, it will be well received and quickly implemented,” he explained. “But employees can make or break a culture. That’s why involving them in the change process and having them lead the effort is the best way to change behavior. Employees are the ones who will enact the change and ensure the new Vital Behaviors become part of their culture.”

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