BHP reports on improving incident rates and successful COVID-19 strategies
Employing approximately 80,000 staff and contractors across six continents, including Australia, the sustainability section of the 2020 report impressively reveals its total recordable injury frequency rate fell by 11 per cent, from 4.7 per cent per million hours worked in 2018-19, to 4.2 per cent in 2019-20. Its high potential injury frequency rate also dropped by 16 per cent, and there were no fatalities at its operated assets in the 12 months to June 2020.
The report states that such improvements follow BHP’s continued efforts to strengthen its safety culture “by educating our people about chronic unease” – a strategy outlined in the organisation’s 2019 report. This involves being “mindful of the possibility of what could go wrong and creating a culture where it is safe to speak up and report hazards and incidents,” the new report reiterates.
To support the BHP target of zero work-related fatalities, the team has been working towards global risk standardisation of critical controls and performance standards for three safety risks: person(s) falling from heights; lifting and cranage; and confined space incidents.
In 2019-20, BHP introduced additional safety requirements for engaging and dealing with contractors and established an integrated contractor management program to drive safer work through aligned processes and technologies.
“Digital” PPE helped HSE teams
BHP says that by 30 June this year, it had confirmed a total of four cases of COVID-19 in workers at its mineral operations in Australia - but claims none of these were potentially infectious while at work.
The organisation also recorded 455 cases among its mineral workers in North and South America and says 135 of these people attended work while possibly infectious.
The employer said that at the start of the pandemic early this year, it quickly recognised its ability to continue operating hinged on keeping workers and community members healthy and safe by facilitating social distancing to reduce infection risks.
BHP’s Annual Report states the organisation reduced the number of people at its work locations through split-shifts at its offices, introducing requirements for business-critical workers only at its operated assets and implementing flexible working-from-home arrangements.
In addition, the report expresses BHP’s support for its employees at greatest risk from COVID-19 to work from home and, where this was not possible, access special leave.
BHP also implemented screening measures like app-based questionnaires and temperature checks for fly-in-fly-out workers at airport departure locations, and evacuated FIFO workers for testing, isolation and medical care where required if they displayed relevant symptoms.
The organisation’s technology team developed a contact tracing app to provide its global staff with “digital personal protective equipment” allowing HSE teams to “trace those who had close contact with a COVID-19-positive member of our workforce.”
“The app uses GPS and Bluetooth-based technologies and was deployed in May, with initial rollout to Western Australia Iron Ore and Minerals Americas test groups,” the report states.
“Across BHP, we increased the availability of support services for our people, including localised counselling services in addition to our employee assistance program, a range of online campaigns and communication tools, and greater communication opportunities to keep our people and teams connected,” it adds.
The organisation says it sought to identify and make safe and suitable arrangements for employees whose wellbeing was not best served by continuing to work from home. In Chile, which has had one of the highest rates of COVID-19 infection globally, a telemedicine service was established to support and monitor infected workers’ health.
BHP’s other COVID-19 strategies included working with its thousands of suppliers to ensure they followed strict health and safety standards for their own workers, and to ensure it could source critical hygiene products like hand sanitiser, face masks and cleaning equipment.
The report indicated the organisation also worked with on-site-based suppliers to implement robust shared resilience plans and include social distancing measures in their on-site procedures to keep its people safe and its operations running.
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