Putting the “Health” in Health & Safety

Author: Glencore Canada | Date: 10/01/2019

Thanks to the HealthyWork program at Nickel Rim South Mine, part of Sudbury INO, the current definition of mine health and safety may be changing.

Most definitions of workplace health and safety are variations on how the World Health Organization sees it – preventing harm from incidental hazards arising from the workplace. In other words, the focus is on the environment rather than the worker. But that definition could be in for a makeover based on the success of a HealthyWork initiative undertaken at Nickel Rim South Mine (NRS).

When Jim, Operations Superintendent at NRS, was tasked in 2016 with leading the establishment of a new program designed to improve the health of the mine’s employees, he knew the timing was right.

“At that time, the average age of our workers was around 55 years and we had noted that minor, personal injuries were trending upward. This, and the increasing awareness that health and fitness of employees can have a direct impact on worker safety, are what led us to the HealthyWork Program,” says Jim. 

At that time, the average age of our workers was around 55 years and we had noted that minor, personal injuries were trending upward. This, and the increasing awareness that health and fitness of employees can have a direct impact on worker safety, are what led us to the HealthyWork Program.

Jim, Operations Superintendent at Nickel Rim South Mine, part of Sudbury INO

Designed and implemented by Med-I-Well Services, a nationally recognized organization that provides industrial health care solutions, HealthyWork comprised a variety of programs and services for NRS employees and their families. Programs included strength training in a newly installed on-site gym, programs on nutrition, smoking cessation, healthy retirement and stress management. As well, weekly presentations by Health Coaches during line-ups, and monthly interactive educational booths were designed to instill a host of healthy behaviours in employees that will hopefully also result in longer, healthier retirements.

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A little healthy reading. Kurtis checking out the HealthyWork booklet handout station.

To keep the Program current and fresh for NRS employees, each year new themes and program changes are introduced. In 2018 for example, the Health Coach Program was expanded to include two certified Health Coaches at on-site coaching dates, held each week from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Subjects included stress management, strength training, stretching, fatigue management, mental health and heart health to name a few. To solidify a top-down approach, a Healthy Leadership Passport was introduced in 2019. This is a tool that helps Supervisors and Managers to utilize Passport Booklets to track progress as they lead their crews through the eight Health Enhancing Behaviours. 

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Putting their heart into it. Lee and Joffre using the on-site interactive booth.

In addition to the ongoing training, individualized support and direct contact with the Health Coaches, there are activities such as Healthy Slogan Contests, Iron Man Competitions, “Why I Commit to be Fit” photo contests, health-related surveys, on-site signage and presentations at staff, safety and quarterly meetings. Furthermore, to integrate health with safety, the Health Coaches are included within the Supervisors Investigation Report (SIR) process to prevent injuries and help employees return to full health. SIR is a summary of an accident or incident that took place on site and shared with crews, including members of the Joint Health & Safety Committee, often as part of a pre-shift process. 

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A great way to spend time before starting a shift. Guido and Brandon working out in the on-site gym facility.

Another key element in the success of the HealthyWork Program is its inclusion in the mine’s overall Key Performance Indicators. And the numbers tell the story. In 2018, Health Coaches gave employees advice on 539 occasions, the on-site gym received nearly 700 employee visits and the monthly-themed exhibits received more than 900 visits.

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What the body wants. Tim finds some exercises at the Stretching Board.

One employee said, “I just want to say how appreciative I am of this whole program. If this had not been offered through work, I wouldn’t have done it. Who has time to go see a nutrition specialist or an exercise consultant outside of work? There is just such a focus on health and wellness here that is unique to this company.” 

Another offered, “My kids have definitely noticed that dad plays with them more. I take them for walks; we enjoy the outdoors. It’s all things I used to not have the time or energy for and now I’m able to do those sort of things because I have changed my lifestyle with help from the Health Coaches. The kids are really noticing that dad is a lot more fun these days.”

As for Jim, the man credited with championing the program, he says there is definitely a new, thriving health culture in the workplace but says it’s the men and women of NRS who deserve the credit. “The fact that there was such a strong buy-in from our employees was a testament to their determination to embrace a healthier lifestyle.”