Safety is everyone’s responsibility and it is our top priority, every day. We aim to learn from past experiences and industry best practices, and we strive for continuous improvement in our safety performance. We are passionate about ensuring a safe and healthy work environment that extends to all aspects of our operation.
Our safety culture starts with our employees and contractors and is backed by our leadership, management systems and processes. Our managers and senior leadership embrace the principles of Visible Felt Leadership for safety. That means spending time with staff, communicating openly, sharing updates and recognition, and showing empathy and their enthusiastic commitment to safety. We ensure that employees have the knowledge, skills, and tools needed to operate safely and manage risks proactively. It is important for every employee to feel empowered to protect themselves and their co-workers, to stop work if it becomes unsafe, to be trained in proper safety techniques, and to make sure safety remains a priority at all times. At Pretivm, we are proud to encourage dialogue and suggestions from all—we want everyone to have the Courage to Care.
In 2020, Pretivm’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), supported by the Mine General Manager and Health & Safety Manager, led our efforts to maintain operations through the COVID-19 pandemic, including establishment of our COVID-19 management plans, protocols, and preventative measures.
Occupational Health & Safety
Our Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Manual and Fitness for Duty Policy support our goal of Zero Harm and apply to all workers at site, including both direct employees and contractors. We consider our OHS Manual, standard operating procedures, and job hazard analyses to be living documents. We critically review and amend our practices to stay relevant and align with best practice for the task at hand. Our senior leadership regularly audits our internal safety management system and commissions annual assessments by external auditors.
Our operations include two Joint Health and Safety Committees, one based at the Brucejack Mine site and the other at Knipple Camp. As required per the provincial regulation, these employee-led committees meet every four weeks and include both broader workforce and management team representatives. The committees work to identify and address workplace health and safety issues and represent the interests of all our employees and contractors.
In 2020, we recorded a lost time injury frequency rate of 0.44, which is below the industry standard reported by the Mining Association of BC (0.68 for all reporting mines in BC). Tragically, we also experienced a fatality at the Brucejack Mine. The isolated incident occurred during maintenance at a support facility on surface. The event reinforced the importance of a comprehensive review of our safety management practices across the company that had recently been initiated. This led to several initiatives as described below related to our overall OHS system and safety culture, in addition to a robust leadership training program.
Under our new leadership, we are advancing and strengthening our safety culture and systems, and this continues to be a focus in 2021. Our OHS management system includes requirements for managerial staff to have a regular on-site presence, and to complete toolbox meetings, safety inspections, and equipment inspections during every site visit. As a result, we have seen an increased safety-focused engagement between employees and managers at site. When our managers show strong leadership with enhanced safety practices and a demonstrated commitment to OHS inspections and reporting, it improves the safety practices of everyone else as well.
Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate
1.2 1.0 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 0
Emergency Response Team members
invested in health and wellness in 2020
non-work related visits to the clinic, accounting for 61% of all clinic visits
Positive Attitude Safety System™
We substantively changed our core OHS management system in late 2020, which was complemented by introducing the Positive Attitude Safety System™ (PASS™) across our operations. This attitude-based approach has been proven to support the development of a positive and proactive safety culture based on awareness, transparency, and continuous improvement. The PASS™ approach is founded upon a focused daily communication process, where every member of every crew asks themselves questions about their previous and commencing shifts, identifying the specific behaviours, decisions, and attitudes that keep them and their co-workers safe. The process is driven by our workers, while managers and supervisors are involved in the review and implementation of resulting actions. We are early in our PASS™ journey at the Brucejack Mine but have already seen promising results as we shift to an intentional safety culture that is built from the ground up.
Incident Reporting & Investigation
All work-related incidents—including higher risk near-miss events—are investigated and we report on the causes and circumstances in accordance with our OHS Manual. Depending on the severity of the incident, we may convene a multi-disciplinary investigation committee that includes representatives from safety, environment, operations, and other relevant departments. Committees follow a structured process to investigate the root cause of the incident, and we record outcomes and corrective actions in our Corrective Action Tracking System (CATS) and share learnings from each event across the company through emails and newsletters, daily safety reports, and managers’ toolbox meetings. We first launched CATS in 2018, and the tracker has been well received by all staff and contractors and is now widely used to ensure actions resulting from incidents and inspections are followed up on and closed.
We train all our employees to identify and anticipate hazards in the workplace, so we can address them promptly and effectively. We also encourage our employees to communicate any concerns or issues that arise. All our workers have “stop work” authority, and we actively communicate this so everyone feels empowered to use it across our workforce. Workers can also report potential safety risks through our Hazard ID program, which provides positive feedback as hazards are addressed and increasingly empowers workers to identify and correct safety issues.
“Having the Courage to Care means we never compromise on safety, we look out for one another and we stop work if it’s not safe.”
Patrick Godin, Chief Operating Officer
Responding to COVID-19
In 2020, the global COVID-19 pandemic presented unprecedented challenges to our operation of the Brucejack Mine. Though we have had to manage COVID cases at the Mine in 2021, we consider the fact that we were able to manage the first waves of the pandemic and maintain operations through 2020, without recording a positive COVID case at site, one of our greatest successes for the year.
We took several steps to protect our workforce, their families and home communities and limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19. We implemented protocols to manage access to the Mine and camp, crew transportation, social distancing, hygiene, health checks, on-site medical services, and increased communication. In the initial months of the pandemic, we reduced some non-essential labour of our workforce and shifted some roles to remote work. Additionally, we adjusted our work rotation from two weeks on/off, to three weeks on/off to reduce interactions and frequency of travel.
We invest in safety and focus on prevention by training our workforce, tracking incidents and corrective actions, and communicating what we learn. We provide a rigorous on-site safety training program: in 2020, we offered 58 types of training, in addition to our specific emergency response training (discussed below). These 58 training programs accounted for 25,491 hours of accumulated training time, with 5,866 hours dedicated to safety-related training.
In addition to formal training courses, we promote safety-related learning and development through daily activities at the Mine. Employees present safety shares at daily toolbox meetings that address a variety of relevant topics. In 2020, many of the daily safety shares focused on COVID-19 prevention and safety measures. At the end of 2020, we implemented the PASSTM program for workers and developed internal PASSTM leaders through a train-the-trainer program. We have taken the time to ensure all employees receive enhanced training around “stop work” authority, risk, and hazard identification trainings.
Safety is our top priority for training and skills development, particularly considering the Mine’s remote location, surrounding glacial terrain, underground mining activities, and the 70-kilometer-long access road. Therefore, all staff and visitors receive site orientations covering basic safety rules and procedures, environmental management, and hazard awareness training upon arrival.
Due to the Brucejack Mine’s remote location and distance to public services, it is important that we are self-sufficient in our ability to respond rapidly and effectively to a wide range of potential emergencies. Our Emergency Preparedness Procedure and Policy provides structure and direction to our emergency response program. We run regular evacuation drills for the mine, mill, and camp. We also run tabletop simulations to practice responses to a wide range of risks and potential incidents identified in our internal risk register, including bus rollovers, earthquakes, fire, and gas leaks. Corrective actions resulting from drills and tabletop simulations are documented in and communicated through CATS.
We maintain emergency response teams at both the Brucejack Mine and Knipple Camp. In 2020, there were 66 team members at the mine site and an additional 28 members at Knipple Camp. They received a combined total of 5,393 hours of training including mine rescue, rope rescue on the glacier, swiftwater rescue, ice rescue, firefighting, spill response, and first aid (including paramedic integration and medical transportation endorsement).
“Brucejack Mine continues to be an example of how health care and industry can work together to coordinate services while minimizing the impacts of industrial development on the health services of small communities. Their leadership is a model for other organizations involved in industrial development and work camps in the North.”
Ciro Panessa, Chief Operating Officer, Northern Health Authority (Northwest Region)
Workplace Health & Wellness
On-Site Health Clinic
Considering the remote location of the Mine, reliable on-site medical services are critical to the well-being of our workforce. In addition to work-related risks of injury, the fact that many workers are at site for extended periods (two to three weeks at a time) means that there is potential for other health issues to arise. Our on-site primary care clinic, operated through a joint venture with the Nisga’a Nation, addresses the need for medical services at the Mine. Medical staff includes remote-care nurses and advanced care paramedics under the guidance of two off-site physicians; physicians are on-call to provide guidance or instruction to on-site staff as needed.
Our on-site clinic is guided by more than 150 policies and procedures related to topics like communicable disease, wound care, triage, patient transport, privacy, mental health assessment, and document management. Our expanded clinic services include proactive and preventative health initiatives such as flu vaccines, updated health and wellness campaigns, physiotherapy, health and fitness, and occupational health programs related to lead, audiology, and spirometry testing. The clinic also provides a variety of voluntary programs including blood sugar and blood pressure monitoring, early detection for diabetes and hypertension, cancer prevention and detection, women’s health, and a smoking cessation program. As the COVID-19 pandemic developed, we provided employees with free and frequent access to COVID-19 testing and vaccinations when they first became available in early 2021.
In 2020, we invested $2 million in our on-site health clinic, totaling $4.9 million invested since 2018. The depth and quality of service at the health clinic exceeds the legal requirements for a mine site and goes beyond what is offered in clinics in many remote northern communities. In fact, 61% of patient visits in 2020 were not work-related: due to the convenience and level of service available at the site, many workers prefer to receive health care at site rather than in community clinics.
The clinic monitors and reports its progress to the Health & Safety Manager, Mine General Manager, and the COO. Performance indicators are related to facilities, patient care, liaison with hospitals, and program usage. Clinic staff meet with management each week to review trends and changing needs. Additionally, we regularly engage with Northern Health, the regional health authority, to discuss and manage potential impacts on local services including hospitals and ambulance services.
Over the last three years, we have expanded the Health, Fitness and Wellness program at the Brucejack Mine, and it has been very well-received by workers at the site. The program is led by two health and wellness coordinators who are professionally trained in fitness, wellness, and physical health. In 2020, they worked with our kitchen staff to expand healthy food choices at the camp and took on the additional roles of Return-to-Work Coordinators as we continue to manage our workforce and the impacts of COVID-19.
Through our modified fitness program in 2020, we provided group fitness classes reaching over 770 participants in five months. When group classes were suspended due to COVID-19 physical distancing restrictions, we started an equipment loan program for individuals to use gym equipment in their rooms. One-on-one personal training sessions were also organized with over 230 employees, and our coordinators provided access to online videos and wellness tips by email. In addition to helping our workers maintain their physical health and fitness, we also put increased emphasis on mental health in 2020 and provided access to trained mental health practitioners through virtual counselling sessions.
Protecting Brucejack From Mountain Hazards
With four full-time workers and 14 full-time seasonal avalanche technicians, Pretivm’s Mountain Safety team manages mountain hazards of all kinds. In winter, the focus is on snow avalanches, while other mountain hazards and glacier management require year-round attention. All team members have spent their lives working in the mountains as senior level ski patrollers, ski guides, and mountain guides, and have professional avalanche qualifications from the Canadian Avalanche Association in addition to training in Advanced First Aid and Rope Rescue courses.
Each winter, we monitor snow and weather conditions to manage avalanches along the length of the haul road and around the Brucejack Mine. When risk levels rise, we use a variety of techniques to mitigate this hazard to levels that allow continued safe work and travel. Our goal is to protect workers and infrastructure from avalanche hazards, while maintaining a safe and productive operation. We also provide emergency rescue capabilities for the mountain environments that we all work in.
We train for individual and group avalanche, glacier crevasse, and technical helicopter extraction rescue from inaccessible terrain. All of these are regularly practiced to a high standard throughout each season. Our work provides an incredibly rewarding, important, and challenging experience and we are proud to be a part of the Brucejack Mine operations.