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Communicating safety at Anglo American
By Kelly Kass
Anglo American’s global engagement program sought to change frontline employees’ attitudes and behaviors toward transportation-related risk and help improve safety performance at the large mining company, which saw a loss of 31 lives in transportation-related incidents between 2007 and 2011.
“Through an audit in 2009, we identified one of our major safety risks was transportation-related activity. We realized there were a number of things we had to do to raise awareness and bring about behavioral change. While there were some systems and processes to follow, many employees didn’t understand the hazards they and their colleagues face,” explains Anne McCormack, Group Head of Internal Communication at Anglo American based in the UK.
As a result, the Safety and Sustainable Development Communications Team was asked to create a Leadership Engagement Program which was delivered in 2010.
This was followed by rolling out the safety initiative to frontline employees and contractors, educating them about risks and preventative measures when it comes to transportation safety.
The road to GOLD QUILL
The GOLD QUILL entry represented the first phase of frontline implementation within the company’s Iron Ore business in Brazil from September to December 2011.
The Group Communication team, working in partnership with a local team led by Luiz Humberto, Head of Safety and Sustainable Development, worked with key internal partners, helping them formulate the right tools and techniques to use across various geographic locations. A one-day workshop took place for all facilitators to help them become familiar with the engagement materials.
According to Humberto, one of the biggest challenges of launching a safety awareness campaign to workers on a construction project like this was their low level of literacy.
“We don’t have a high level of literacy in the construction industry. We implemented the program to 15,000 contractors in Brazil working at 120 different work fronts. So we had to invent training, bringing the campaign to remote areas to encourage dialogues between supervisors and employees.”
Humberto says that to have repeated conversations in challenging logistical situations, face-to-face was the optimal channel for supervisors.
“We were dealing with people working along a 525 km pipeline under tight schedules. There wasn’t a physical office space to have these interactions so the only way to give people an appropriate meeting place was to create a mobile site (improvised bus with the internal space transformed into a training room) with program materials designed to contend with hot or rainy, humid conditions,” he says.
To take people away from the task at hand and focus on the campaign, materials had to be engaging and interactive.
Taking those challenges into consideration, McCormack and her colleagues came up with an image-driven campaign that would truly hit home with workers –responsible for operating 2000 vehicles and piece of heavy equipment.
“The images were real and representative of each type of transportation-related task no matter what the location. Workers could see themselves in those types of scenarios showing the reality of safety risks involved and the issues people faced on a daily basis,” McCormack recalls.
Get people talking
Many of the visual aids were portable adding to the engagement and encouraging interaction between supervisors and employees which lasted anywhere from five minutes to an hour.
“Everything we created was designed to prompt a conversation,” McCormack says.
Particularly effective talking points were five videos shown to staff consisting of actual, personal transportation stories from workers supported by simple powerful animations to recreate what happened. Each piece garnered emotive reactions from shop floor employees.
“When we showed the videos, some men cried instantaneously, because they remembered personal tragedies in their lives. These weren’t just technical conversations about safety concepts, we were talking about loss of human lives.”
Other materials in the Why Risk It? campaign included exercises used to help people identify safety hazards. What Could Have Been Done Differently? used illustrated scenarios based on real incidents to help teams examine what went wrong and what lessons could be learned.
Spot the Difference exhibited the right and wrong ways to handle a situation to make sure teams understood what not to do. This included a series of five illustrations showing two ‘identical’ pictures with five differences to be found between the two.
What’s wrong with? featured a selection of real images to help people identify hazards at work and consider the risks posed as well as what actions they needed to take to keep themselves safe.
Risk and You was a brief, simple test conducted to help team members reflect on their own attitudes toward risk using common day-to-day examples.
Poster, banners and T-shirts were also created to raise awareness of the campaign.
Results and feedback
By the time the three-month campaign wrapped up, a total of 4076 toolbox dialogues were used by 41,456 workers across Brazil. The number of transportation related incidents was reduced by 55% from August to December 2011 along the Minas-Rio pipeline (6,000 employees), compared to the same period the previous year. In addition about 70% of high potential incidents have been eliminated.
Thanks to the safety initiative, Humberto says, “Supervisors have defined work risks better than before. Shop-floor operators now understand the importance of the safety program, the roles they can play, and what it takes to prevent dangerous incidents from occurring.”
In addition, he says, “people can now understand and apply company standards, knowing the reason behind these procedures. Their passion and commitment can save lives.
”There have also been several improvements made toward infrastructure, as well as better traffic monitoring to prevent vehicle collisions.
So what did the pipeline workers themselves think of Why Risk It?
“This campaign improved my risk perception, and makes me rethink all the time my decisions and attitude,” said Sebastião Cristódio, Minas-Rio pipeline contractor.
His colleague, Wingston Acelmo, also enjoyed taking part in the campaign:
“I liked mainly the identification of errors and differences. It was my first experience with this kind of campaign, and it will be recorded in my mind. It’s very good seeing the care and respect from our company.”
Additional comments were just as favorable. “I like the topics covered as they are related to our biggest risk: transportation! The campaign will definitely change hearts and minds,” expressed Paulo Borges, Minas-Rio Pipeline Safety Engineer.
Meanwhile, Domingos Salvador is grateful for the opportunity to take part in the campaign.
“It made me reflect about ‘why I’m taking risks’ because as a bus driver, I think that my attitude and decisions can affect a lot of people. Their lives are in my hands!”
A win-win for everyone
With increased safety awareness and reduced transportation-related accidents at Anglo American, how does McCormack and her team feel about receiving a 2012 IABC GOLD QUILL/EMErald Award?
“We take great pride that a team of professional communicators recognized us. IABC has a great reputation; we have a great deal of respect for them.
“I’m proud to say that as a mining company, three to four years ago, we wouldn’t have been sharing the good things we do. We’ve always been doing good things but this award is a way for us to showcase the great work we do, as well as help us internally with promoting the value of communications. The fact that we’ve been recognized by a professional body and by our peers will help us as a function when we need buy-in for new ideas. People will know that we’re up there with the best of them.”
(Pictured: In-coming President of IABC EME, Phil Weiss, presenting the GOLD QUILL/EMErald Award to communications consultant, Jacqui Hitt (who assisted on the launch of Why Risk It?), and Anglo American's Carolina Molinari.)
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