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Speaking SafeNickel with Neil, Manager, Safety Management System & First Officer, at Raglan Mine

Author: Glencore Canada | Date: 23/02/2017

Glencore’s first priority is to protect the health and wellbeing of its employees. To achieve this, we must identify and manage health and safety hazards in our workplace. In order to help realize this goal, we launched SafeWork to provide a common global foundation to build our culture of safety worldwide.

At our nickel assets, SafeWork has been adapted as SafeNickel, which supports the operation’s individual safety programs and protocols. 

Speaking SafeNickel connects with Glencore employees asking them about SafeNickel, and safety in general. The series continues as Glencore Canada caught up with Neil, Manager, Safety Management System and First Officer for Raglan Mine’s aviation operations, to keep the SafeNickel conversation going.

As a fly-in fly-out operation, Raglan Mine requires aircraft to transport people and cargo to and from the mining complex and its various operations. Neil was selected for the Speaking SafeNickel series as the unique role of a pilot for a mining operation shares an inextricable value with colleagues who they transport to and from the mine site: safety.

Glencore Canada: Tell us about your work environment and your specific role at Raglan Mine.

Neil: My role is that of Manager, Safety Management System (SMS) and First Officer. 

SMS is the global standard for the aviation industry as it helps companies identify safety risks before they become bigger problems. Transport Canada regulations require the aviation industry to put safety management systems in place as an extra layer of protection to help save lives.

Managing the SMS involves facilitating internal safety findings and audits, organizing the data, tracking trends and conducting meetings with the other pilots in the operation to share and discuss the information we obtained through these processes.

I’ve been a First Officer for about five years, which involves occupying the right seat of the aircraft, and I am currently undergoing training to become a Captain. 

The pilots’ working environment is the aircraft we use – the location we call home for four days each week – to safely transport our colleagues and cargo between Raglan Mine and various cities to the south.

The entire idea is if the job cannot be done safely, we stop work. It’s the view that we all have the duty, even if it isn’t within our immediate realm of responsibility, to raise safety concerns. We are all in this together; it’s one unifying idea that safety comes first – without compromise.

Neil, Manager, Safety Management System and First Officer, at Raglan Mine

Glencore Canada: What does SafeNickel mean to you?

Neil: SafeNickel is an all-encompassing concept; everyone, regardless of their role or duties, has a responsibility for safety and for applying that philosophy to each task they perform.

The entire idea is if the job cannot be done safely, we stop work. It’s the view that we all have the duty, even if it isn’t within our immediate realm of responsibility, to raise safety concerns. We are all in this together; it’s one unifying idea that safety comes first – without compromise.

Glencore Canada: What are some of the other important tools you use to uphold safety in your work environment?

Neil: We undertake simulator training, which takes place at least twice per year. We know our flying experience won’t have us facing every possible scenario, so we rely on simulator training to provide us those experiences. 

Simulator training enables us to validate and further refine our checklists and standard operating procedures (SOPs) in these scenarios while in a safe environment and without threat to anyone.

We also rely on ground training (theoretical material taught on the ground as opposed to in the air) whereby we run through scenarios, review safety trends in the industry, evaluate how we approach certain types of events and undertake aircraft reviews. Our SMS, which I mentioned before, is a key tool that facilitates our ground training.

Last, strong communication with crew – and we mean that to be everyone: flight attendants, air traffic controllers, tower controllers at the mine, ground handlers, security staff, etc. – is paramount as they form part of our working environment and we need to be all communicating well to uphold safety.

Alt
Since Raglan Mine's site is in a remote location; its employees — from across Quebec, as well as from Ontario and New Brunswick — commute to work by two company-owned Boeing 737 jets.

Glencore Canada: Can you expand on the role standard operating procedures (SOPs) play in your work environment?

Neil: Simply, SOPs outline how we conduct ourselves. Everything we do is quite regimented; from checklists to performing our duties to the flow checks in our cockpit. There is a flow and standard to everything we do, and if there is an interruption to that flow, we start the process over again. SOPs guarantee that you conduct yourself in the exact same way each time. While different variables may present themselves in any given situation, we always adhere to our SOPs.

If a new person is hired into our flight department, they should be able to read those SOPs and, having never met me before, we should be able to flow between one another just perfectly in the airplane. SOPs do not allow for making things up on the go; our jobs are quite structured, so the SOPs add that additional buffer of safety. If you ever get distracted or if anything happens out of the ordinary, following your SOPs gives you the greatest chance of a favourable outcome, whether taking off, landing or in cruise flight.

Glencore Canada: We often hear of miners needing to be “fit for work.” Does this terminology and concept apply to pilots and the aviation industry? If so, how?

Neil: Absolutely. Pilots in Canada must abide by Transport Canada regulations, including stringent fitness standards. Being fit for work means being rested; we have crew duty regulations that we must adhere to, as well as crew rest regulations. Drugs and alcohol, including many prescription drugs are strictly forbidden too. 

So, fit for work means showing up with our minds on the job. 

There must be no outside interference from a health and mental perspective. We show up ready to work, and if there is any doubt about our fitness, even a minor sickness like a common cold, which could do damage to your inner ears, we must report it to our supervisor, so another crew can be brought in.

Glencore Canada: What events in the workplace have influenced you positively with regards to safety? How has your behaviour regarding safety evolved since you joined Raglan Mine?

Neil: I’ve flown for a number of different companies and, by comparison, I’m always impressed with the level of professionalism our employees demonstrate around the airplane, in the workplace or in the terminal. In fact, when I first joined the team, I was visiting the mine site and was climbing a set of stairs and did not have my three points of contact – one hand and two feet, or two hands and one foot.

Someone stopped me – to this day I don’t know who it was – and he said, “I know you are the new pilot; welcome to the team. I just wanted to advise you of the need to have your three points of contact while climbing the stairs.” We were on break and just going for breakfast and there he was looking out for me – looking out for one another.

People at Raglan Mine get it. They are switched on; they apply it to everything they do.

As a pilot, moving people safely is what I do. If I can’t move people safely; I don’t move people – I don’t get to do my job. When people are sitting in the back of the aircraft, they place complete trust in us.

Neil, Manager, Safety Management System and First Officer, at Raglan Mine

Glencore Canada: What motivates you to keep safety top of mind at all times?

Neil: As a pilot, moving people safely is what I do. If I can’t move people safely; I don’t move people – I don’t get to do my job. When people are sitting in the back of the aircraft, they place complete trust in us.

When I was first hired, I remember flying from Katinniq/Donaldson Airport near the mine site to Rouyn-Noranda on a dark, snowy night. It happened to be close to the Christmas holidays. While we were taxiing in and got closer to the terminal, I could see families all lined up looking out at the aircraft through the large terminal windows. They were waiting for their family members on our aircraft, eager to spend time with them. What a sight.

If that vision does not reinforce why we do what we do, I’m not sure what does. Now, several years on, I have come to know, and have become close, with many of these same colleagues, which has only further driven the SafeNickel lesson home.