Caring for each other is one of our values – it is part of who we are and the way we work, every shift, every day. Nothing is more important than the safety and wellbeing of our employees, contractors and communities.
We believe all incidents and injuries are preventable, so our focus is on identifying, managing and, where possible, eliminating risks.
We use automation and robots to do some of our high-risk work. And we are focused and committed to strengthening our partnerships with industry and associated committees (eg ICMM), contracting partners and local communities with the priority of learning and sharing to protect everyone’s health, safety and wellbeing.
Progress in 2022
Although we had no fatalities on our managed sites in 2022, we are saddened by the loss of a mariner on board a non-managed chartered vessel, and a permanent disabling injury suffered by another mariner in a separate incident, also on a non-managed chartered vessel. We remain determined to improve maritime safety for our industry through a multi-year programme to identify, manage and eliminate risks in the marine supply chain.
We continue to see serious incidents at our own operations. Our main risks relate to falling objects, fall from height, and vehicles and driving.
Our all-injury frequency rate (AIFR) remained stable at 0.40, compared to 2021. We continue to see a disparity between the number of injuries among employees and contractors, so we remain focused on including contractors in our safety culture.
Critical risk management (CRM) remains our primary fatality elimination tool by helping ensure that critical controls are in place and working where there is a fatal risk. In the last year, we continued to simplify our critical risk content, particularly for risks of rail impact or collision, mooring and drowning.
To address risks related to vehicles and driving, in late 2021 we made significant changes to the Group procedure for mass transportation, a component of our vehicles and driving Group standard. These changes included the mandatory implementation of in-vehicle monitoring systems, and fatigue and distraction technology in all buses we operate, as well as increased safety feature requirements for vehicles purchased after January 2022. To tackle risks associated with falling objects, in the last year we also worked to improve the asset integrity of overhead cranes across our operations.
In 2023, we will re-focus our attention on CRM to address the frequency of potentially fatal incidents (PFIs) across all critical risks. We will work to enhance the quality and impact of verifications – used for checking that the right critical controls are in place for each task – and we will use the data we collect to understand early trends, so that we can intervene before incidents occur.
Across our business, our commitment remains on advancing our safety culture. The safety maturity model (SMM), introduced in 2019, was enhanced in 2022 to provide our leaders and their teams with clear guidance on managing health and environment risks, as well as on integrating contractors in a way that helps keep them safe. We also directed our efforts towards better understanding the felt experience of our workforce and the effectiveness of safety rituals. To help leaders understand and apply the SMM enhancements, we ran a series of “teach-in” sessions covering the key changes, including maturity indicators (systems, symbols, behaviours and felt experience), the importance of mindsets in supporting behaviour and culture change, and the critical steps in the assessment process, including scoring. We also evolved our assessor training programme to reflect these enhancements, as well as to improve assessors’ understanding of the model and consistency in its application.
As a result of the enhancements we introduced to the SMM, we also stepped up the requirements for what defines each level of safety maturity across our business. With the inclusion of health, environment and contractors, we have reset our expectations on how to lead for both physical and psychological safety, while also caring for the environment.
Although we know this will be a multi-year journey, we are encouraged by the results of the 2022 assessments, which deepened our understanding of the safety culture at each site. In addition, feedback received from site teams confirmed that the assessments provided actionable insight into where to focus to become a safer workplace.
Mental health & wellbeingMental health is a core part of our safety culture. We have a responsibility to support the wellbeing of our people, beyond the traditional areas of health and safety, and we are committed to creating a work environment that is free from psychological harm.
We understand that our employees’ mental health can be impacted by psychosocial risks at work, so we continue to strengthen our psychosocial risk management. To support an environment where everyone feels safe, respected and included, we are progressing all 26 recommendations from the Everyday Respect Report, with a focus on training leaders in building psychological safety and becoming upstanders, rectifying any unsafe facilities and building plans to make our facilities more inclusive, and providing a more people-centric response to support those impacted by harmful behaviours and disrespect.
We are a member of the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) Psychosocial Risk Management Working Group, chaired by MCA and industry partners, to improve the understanding and management of psychosocial risk within our industry.
In 2022, we continued our work to help leaders recognise psychosocial hazards; assess the risks; and implement, evaluate and monitor effective controls, just as for any other health or safety risk. We also continued embedding our mental health framework to raise awareness of mental wellbeing, reduce stigma and increase the capacity of our leaders to recognise and support individuals experiencing mental illness.
Aligned with our commitment to give our employees the tools and skills they need to support their mental health, we continue to provide and promote the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), our mental health toolkit and our global Peer Support Programme, which includes more than 1,500 peer supporters worldwide. We also support our people through our domestic violence support programmes, which cover 100% of employees.
We continued to support global mental health campaigns such as R U OK? Day and World Mental Health Day. In October 2022, we held our mental health week to support mental wellbeing in the communities where we operate and encourage our people to look out for one another. We ran a programme of activities that included our first-ever global calls dedicated to mental health. The full communications programme reached employees via leader and peer supporter conversations, Yammer posts, intranet articles and a combination of four live and recorded webinars on topics such as resilience and the connection between mental health and menopause. We further encouraged conversations by sharing employees’ stories and experiences with mental health, and having senior leaders and members of our Executive Committee share their personal reflections and commitment to mental health.
Occupational healthIn 2022, we recorded a higher number of new occupational health illnesses compared to the previous year, with 69 (2021: 611), in line with our increased focus on medical assessments. These assessments are a key requirement in ensuring and maintaining our employees’ fitness for work, addressing legislative requirements and managing risk profiles. In the last year, we began work to standardise and simplify such assessments to help improve our health performance.
We also ran two workshops for our global health practitioners to share learnings, best practice and recent technology developments.
In 2022, we continued the post-pandemic return to normal for occupational and industrial hygiene sampling. This includes analysis of noise, airborne particulates, gas and other
contaminants that can lead to adverse health effects for our employees and contractors. We also reinstated our health surveillance – audiometry, spirometry and biological monitoring – to proactively identify potential occupational illnesses.
The data collected over 2022 allows for semi-quantitative assessments of risk and identifies areas where we can implement or enhance control measures. Each product group worked on identifying projects within their assets which, with the support of the Areas of Expertise, will be designed, developed and implemented to reduce exposures for our employees and contractors.
We also updated and simplified our guidance notes on Occupational Exposure Limits and Occupational Hygiene Statistics to simplify these processes. This will help our teams manage and report hygiene risks.
Recognising the need to improve the transparency and detail of our health data, we performed a Group Internal Audit in 2022. We are now implementing the audit recommendations by working to improve the reporting of our data. These recommendations include reviewing gaps in guidance, updating our existing guidance to address these gaps, re-training our health practitioners and improving the available consolidated reports to enable further insights.
Re-doubling our efforts on delivering products that safeguard the environment, health and safety of our communities and end-consumers, we brought together colleagues from our product groups, Health, Environment and Commercial teams to develop a roadmap for future-proofing our product stewardship.
1 Originally reported as 51 in 2021 due to medical diagnosis and/or investigation outcomes finalised after the end of the year, resulting in additional occupational health illnesses reported after the 2021 Annual Report publication.
The Health, Safety, Environment and Security Transformation Programme, implemented across five sites, is simplifying the way we work and increasing the value we get from the information we collect, ultimately making our business safer. We are piloting the core modules at Bell Bay and Dampier Port in Australia, and Boron in the US. At Saguenay–Lac-St-Jean in Quebec, Canada, we are piloting three of the environment modules: air, water and greenhouse gas. Global deployment of the core modules will start in 2023.
In 2022, as we entered the endemic stage of the COVID-19 outbreak, we saw fewer cases across our business. We stood down our COVID-19 global Business Resilience teams and transitioned our strategy for managing the disease to a risk-based approach, in the same way we manage other infectious diseases. We continue to monitor the situation and follow safety precautions to reduce exposure to the virus and protect our people, contractors, their families and the communities where we operate. We also continue to offer support to those impacted by COVID-19, including long COVID and any psychological impacts.
Safety in shipping
Our operations include maritime transport, so we work with the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) and other industry associations to refine testing for metal corrosion, to help ensure that bulk materials such as iron ore and bauxite are shipped safely.
In 2019, this partnership led to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) agreeing to a refined test method for assessing the corrosiveness of metal ores and concentrates in bulk shipping. The IMO has approved this method, which is now in the process of being included in future versions of the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code. This means that materials of all types (solids and liquids) will be better characterised and assessed before shipping, enhancing the protection of cargoes in the hold and reduce the risk of corrosion to the ship’s hull, improving shipping safety and reducing the risk of sea pollution.
Safety lessons that are hard to forget
Imagine learning how to drive an 85-tonne truck or heading underground for the first time surrounded by a lot of noise and huge machinery.
By using simulators, we can create safe, real-life ways to train our truck, drill and train operators. And they are not just for newbies. We also use them to train more experienced operators for emergencies they may not have encountered before. They can learn first-hand what steps to take during a fire, without having to inhale any smoke.
At Oyu Tolgoi in Mongolia, we are using virtual reality as part of site inductions. New employees practice important tasks – like finding the correct safety gear for a job and locating underground refuge chambers in an emergency. We are also educating employees about critical risks and the steps we can take to prevent dangerous situations.
We have found using virtual reality for training helps people to better remember what they learn – which makes our sites safer and more productive.
Caring for our employees extends beyond physical safety, and includes their health and wellbeing. We work hard to create a positive and supportive environment for all employees. We promote a healthy, balanced lifestyle, including work-life balance, good nutrition, regular exercise and access to health care.
Mental health matters
Raising awareness, working to overcome negative stereotypes, and promoting a healthy, balanced lifestyle are important parts of our approach.
We provide mental health training for leaders and employees, equipping them with the skills to recognise and refer colleagues for assistance as required. By creating awareness about mental health, in particular psychosocial hazards, they can recognise a problem before it develops – and help.
We also offer different kinds of support, including our Employee Assistance Programme, telemedicine in some regions, peer support programmes and online educational tools.
Employee Assistance Programme
Our Employee Assistance Programme gives employees access to professional coaching, advice and support for themselves and their families. It can help with many types of concerns, including financial and legal questions, children’s needs, family relationships, advice for supporting an ill parent, balancing work and home, and dealing with change and stress. More than 98% of our employees are covered by this programme, and the rest are supported by on-site counsellors.
Helping our colleagues: peer support programme
We know that when people reach out for help, particularly in a work environment, they are more likely to approach friends and colleagues than to use more formal support programmes. Our peer support programme equips employees at all levels of the business to support their colleagues through difficult times.
Supporting employees affected by domestic violence
The safety and wellbeing of our people is our top priority. In 2017, we took steps to minimise the impact of domestic violence with a package of initiatives to protect and support employees. We provide special leave, emergency accommodation, financial support and training to equip leaders and employees to step in and help – safely and effectively.
In 2018, in Australia, this led to Rio Tinto being the first mining company to receive White Ribbon accreditation and recognition at the annual Australian Women in Resources National Awards. Our domestic violence support programmes now cover 100% of our employees.
Fatigue is a critical risk in our day-to-day operations. Some of the work our employees do is physically and mentally taxing; fatigue increases the chances of injury, even when people are not at work.
We have worked with universities in Africa and Australia to study our employees’ attitudes towards fatigue, and learned that we have a good foundation in our fatigue management systems, but we have more work to do in ensuring they are consistently applied.
We have also conducted our own studies to better understand and manage fatigue-related risk, including piloting the use of wearable technology to help manage employees’ fatigue. This provided valuable information to individuals on their quality and quantity of sleep, and data for the business to better understand risks and how to more effectively manage them. As a result, we have developed a number of global training packages and guidance tools for employees and leaders to use.
In our industry, we have so many people working away from their loved ones. Sometimes it can be pretty hard for people when they’re lonely, working long hours and they may have things going on at home. When people are lonely, anxiety and depression can kick in.
For people suffering with mental health issues, talking to someone they trust can make all the difference. Taurai, a mobile mining equipment fitter at our Yandicoogina iron ore mine, is one of our business’s peer supporters:
“As a peer supporter, I help people around our site who are struggling with a few problems – it could be mental health issues, they may be having a down moment in their life, or it could be issues at home with their kids. It varies day to day. I lend a listening ear and I also help people to access professional services or any other help they may need. It’s about creating a safe, confidential and trustworthy environment for people.
We spend two thirds of the year on a worksite, so it’s important people have a support network inside work.
And even though we’re at work, it’s very important that we’re able to discuss troubles that we’re having outside of work too. It’s good to have people at the same level, like team mates, who can help – just to talk. It can make a big difference.
It’s important at work because a healthy mind is also a safe and productive mind: a mind that is able to identify hazards, and support other people around them. It’s good to have a healthy mindset when we go home to our loved ones at the end of our roster. The healthier you are mentally, the better you are for yourself, your family and your team.”
Managing major hazards
Running a safe, responsible and profitable business requires us to manage major hazard risks and do everything we can to prevent catastrophic events, including those involving tailings and water storage facilities, chemicals, underground mining and process safety.
We identify major hazard risks (low probability, high consequence events) and manage them by verifying controls, conducting external reviews and requiring compliance with standards and procedures – such as our tailings and water storage facilities management standard. Standards and procedures provide a consistent approach that is then implemented across our managed operations around the world. We audit every operation against our standards, and require our businesses to meet their health and safety performance requirements and targets. We remain committed to the reduction of our process safety risks and continue to run our Occupied Buildings Programme, which will eliminate, or mitigate, the total process safety exposure to our people occupying buildings.
Using data to improve health & safety
By looking for trends in data, we can help keep our employees and contractors safe. We track health and safety performance to identify patterns – for example, using additional controls to prevent incidents at times of the day when they are more likely.
We have started to look beyond traditional health and safety metrics – bringing factors like weather and workers’ accommodation into the picture – to identify the leading indicators of injuries, incidents, occupational illnesses and fatalities. We are factoring our learnings into revised health and safety practices in key parts of our business.
We have also piloted the use of wearable technology to help manage employees’ fatigue. This provided valuable information to individuals on their quality and quantity of sleep, and data for the business to better understand risks and how to more effectively manage them. As a result, we provided awareness training for employees and leaders on how to reduce fatigue-related risk.
We also use our Critical Risk Management tool to geolocate where our critical risk assessments have occurred to ensure we do not miss any out of the way areas that would otherwise go unchecked.
We are committed to zero fatalities and a zero-harm work environment. We continually improve our safety culture, and key to this is improving leadership and simplifying our tools and systems.
Our leadership and care, management processes, risk assessments and our fatality management system, Critical Risk Management (CRM), help us understand the short-term safety and long-term health impacts of our operations. CRM requires everyone to make sure controls are implemented and working as designed. If they are not, the job is stopped until it is safe to continue. For example, before starting maintenance on a conveyor, we would start by identifying all sources of energy and verifying that they have been shut off. If the critical controls are not in place, the job does not start.
We continue to report near misses, specifically focusing on events with potential for a major consequence (‘Potential Fatal Incidents” so we can investigate and learn from these to ensure our controls are continually being reviewed for effectiveness.
These processes also form part of our SMM model.