Safety Recognition Program: Elkview Operations, Elk Valley Coal
As 2006 came to a close, Elkview Operations reviewed its safety record and saw a plateau; while the Operation’s overall performance wasn’t cause for concern, it certainly didn’t seem to be improving. General Manager Robin Sheremeta decided that the site needed a recognition program that would pull its employees together as a unit as opposed to operating on an individual performance-based safety program. The resulting Courageous Leadership program has helped generate the lowest lost-time incident numbers in Elkview’s history.
“We can run this mine with zero injuries.”
Robin challenged everyone to establish a new, pro-safety value system based on principles of Courageous Leadership, set a milestone of 750,000 hours without a lost-time incident (LTI) as being the indicator of success, and set out to engage employees.
Robin explains his philosophy: “Safety is the number one company priority, but only when all persons at our site take a proactive leadership role in health and safety can we achieve a work environment free of significant incidents, and become an industry leader.”
“Although it’s had great success at other sites, our existing Bonus Points program didn’t produce the results we were looking for at Elkview, and it certainly didn’t provoke a broad shift in values and beliefs. Courageous Leadership differs from Bonus Points by getting away from a ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude – it looks at the issue more holistically, and gets individuals working together as a team towards achieving safety goals. Our focus was redirected towards rewarding accomplishments achieved as a group; we wanted to celebrate, as a site, significant milestones that represented evidence that we were moving in the right direction.”
“When we encourage employees to engage themselves as courageous leaders, they have to believe that we as a company will guarantee them a right to a safe and healthy workplace –and that they have the right and obligation to refuse unsafe work.”
Now every employee and new hire gets an individual introduction to the Milestone programme, and care is taken to create celebrations that resonate with all staff. Robin lists some examples:
“When we achieved 1,000,000 hours LTI-free, every employee received a leather jacket. Every 750,000 hours we go without a lost-time injury, we give our employees a day off with pay to take around Christmas –the idea is to spend that time with family. When we achieved a full year LTI-free in 2007, we brought a photographer in to take pictures of our employees at work and then presented everyone onsite with a book of the Elkview property and its employees, with a message thanking everyone for their efforts. This year’s John Ash award, which we earned with zero LTIs will be celebrated with a choice of a handheld GPS unit, a travel GPS unit or an iPod – the GPS theme being ‘finding our way in safety.’”
“Now when we recognize our achievements, the site celebrates together and there is a greater feeling of appreciation and team accomplishment.”