HR Innovation: A Look at Highland Valley Copper’s Modified Work Centre
In 2010 Highland Valley Copper was one of four finalists in the B.C. Human Resources Management Association’s Award of Excellence for innovation. The nomination was based on the development of a unique disability management program for employees. Teck collaborated with the United Steelworkers Local 7619 to develop a Modified Work Center (MWC) which is part of a comprehensive claims management program developed in 1992. The goal of the program was to support employees and provide employment and rehabilitation opportunities even when employees are unable to perform their regular duties.
The MWC allows employees undergoing rehabilitation as a result of injury or illness to continue contributing and potentially learn new skills in modified work environments. The MWC provides employees with the opportunity to perform tasks which do not require specialized skills and support other operating departments. Our General Supervisor of Employee Relations at HVC describes the 6000 square foot modified work center as “a very open space where several work stations are set up and each work station is designated for a specific task.” As these tasks do not require specialized skills, HVC is able to provide temporary employment to all employees regardless of the nature of their injury or illness. Through the MWC employees are able to return to work, receive their base salary, meet their rehabilitation needs and prepare for a successful return to their regular job. The MWC reduces the frequency of absenteeism due to both workplace and non-workplace related injuries or illnesses and promotes early recovery while preserving a skilled workforce.
Sustainability also forms an important principle in the MWC. We achieve performance goals at the MWC based on the three “R”s of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. For example, the MWC supports other departments by repairing and refurbishing items such as ladders, shovels, picks and wheelbarrows. When these recycled items are sent back to the department, they are painted bright orange or marked with “MWC”, allowing employees to recognize their work and feel a sense of pride about their contribution. The MWC boosts employee morale and is also cost-efficient and selfsustaining. When departments receive refurbished items from the MWC, the Centre receives a dollar value credit for each recycled item, which is usually around one-third of the market cost to refurbish the item. As of December 31, 2009, the total credits accrued to the MWC amounted to approximately $336,000.
In 2009, a total of 100 employees participated in the MWC, each staying for an average of five weeks in the MWC. This translated to 18,951 hours of productive work and sick leave and disability savings of approximately $350,000. Employees who go through the MWC are usually the biggest ambassadors for the program once they return to their regular departments. Another big supporter of the program is the Workers’ Compensation Board of British Columbia whom we worked with in order to develop a DVD featuring the Modified Work Centre which will serve as a best practice example for the construction industry. We are continuously improving the MWC by re-organizing and renovating the workstations and the layout of the space so that we can provide this innovative facility to all of our employees well into the future.