Back to blog

Our sustainability priorities in 2020: interview with HSE Director, Polyus

30 January 2020
Our sustainability priorities in 2020: interview with HSE Director, Polyus

Safety is essential for our production facilities, so it requires the highest level of attention. What did Polyus achieve in this field in 2019? What are the plans for 2020? We discussed these issues with Roman Dertinov, Director for Health, Safety, Environment and Sustainable Development at MC Polyus

— Roman, how was the last year in terms of health, safety, environment and sustainable development at Polyus?

— It was very successful. Our company has progressed in all areas over four years of active cooperation between HSE&SD function and other corporate departments. Numbers speak louder than words and, in comparison to other large Russian miners, Polyus is clearly a frontrunner.

In 2019, our LTIFR dropped by 11% compared to 2018, and by 27% vs 2017, and is half as much as the industry’s average. Our company ranks first in terms of contractor management and there were no fatalities involving contractors on Polyus sites.

This indicator ranges from 1 to 7 incidents among other Russian mining companies.

Five success factors

— What are the drivers behind these achievements?

— First of all, we were right to focus on a proactive KPI based on the Bradley scale. This scale demonstrates the company’s sustainability and the maturity level in terms of our safety performance.

Over the past five years, the injury rate has been declining by 15-25% on average every year. Our projects to reduce key injury risks in five main areas (impact of rotating tools, working at height, electrical safety, road traffic safety, contractor management) also contribute towards this.

For example, as part of our focus on reducing the risk of the impact of rotating tools, in 2019 we ensured that hazardous parts and rotating elements were equipped with safeguarding elements/ fencing, visible signs and interlocks. These steps enabled us to reduce the number of related incidents by 1.6 times over the past year compared to 2017. In 2020, reducing the risks associated with rotating tools will be a priority at Natalka, as our operations there have a relatively short track record. Due to the seasonality of operations, Alluvials, as well as Krasnoyarsk and service companies (Polyus Stroi and Polyus Logistics, especially in the off-season) will also remain a point of focus.

Our focus on preventing falls is related to managing behavior both on and off duty and covers both falling from height and on level ground. In 2019, we reduced the number of falls from height and had no fatal incidents related to falling. This is attributable to our use of best-in-class safety harnesses and strips. Our employees receive training at our test grounds to use them in any risk zone. Hands-on training is crucial.

— Hands-on training is one of Polyus’ special tools, isn’t it?

— Yes, with regard to electrical safety, for example, we have specialized electrical safety simulators and training devices for hands-on training to master skills related to technical operations on 6 kV electricity generating plants; installation of temporary protective grounding; rescuing victims of electric shocks from the source of electricity; escape from the step potential zone; selection of PPE etc.

Unfortunately, the company recorded a fatal incident in July 2019, in which a maintenance electrician tragically sustained a fatal electrical shock. Following a full investigation of the incident, root causes were analyzed, and a complex program was drawn up for mitigating risks of electrical injuries, including introducing technical and organizational measures. This was partially put into practice in 2019, and the rest of the initiatives will be rolled out soon. Electrical shock-related incidents are very rare, yet they have potential for catastrophic impact. For this reason, this area is a point of focus for us.

Road traffic accidents are another priority for us. In 2019, the company recorded a 15% decline in the number of road traffic accidents on a y-o-y basis, and AARk was 22% and 39% down vs. 2018 and 2017 respectively. The number of road traffic accidents with high potential for danger, including long distance hazardous cargo and passenger transportation, fell by 28% compared to 2018. This result was driven by several initiatives. We standardized our transport management systems, including trip management through the dispatch service. We started to design safe itineraries, introduce incentives for drivers, train them on the defense driving program, install on-board vehicle monitoring systems. The on-board vehicle monitoring system displays how safe the drivers are traveling to the dispatch service in the on-line mode.

We introduced a driver ID system, and now we know at all times who is driving every vehicle and what their skill level is. We introduced an incentive system based on these metrics, rewarding drivers for safe driving.

— There is one thing remaining, which is contractor management.

— Yes, that is our fifth area of focus. Contractor management is very important as this risk area is as large as our own staff. We try to ensure that contractors are selected carefully for our sites. We assess the HSE management system at the selection stages through surveys and reviewing submitted documents.

Contractors who do not comply with our HSE requirements are not eligible for further cooperation with Polyus. We have already launched a pilot project at one of our business units that includes an HSE field audit of the contractor’s offices and production sites. This will help us build a clearer picture of how their management system performs and to ensure that the contractor is fail-safe in terms of compliance with our requirements.

In 2019, there were no fatalities among our contractor personnel. Compared to 2018, there was a significant decline of 17% in the injury rate and by 14% in the number of road traffic accidents.

Polyus trains all contractor employees according to our approved corporate program prior to starting work, and contractor engineers and drivers receive additional training on HSE leadership and defensive driving programs respectively. We give contractors the opportunity to train on our corporate programs and master their practical skills at our training grounds.

For every contract, a contact person from production personnel is assigned to work with the contracted company on HSE matters while the HSE department provides expert and methodological support.

In addition, we initiated a new rating system for contractors last year, to measure HSE performance. We are seeking a long-term high-quality partnership, which is why this rating affects our decision on further cooperation. This encourages contractors to be proactive in terms of safety, adopt best corporate practices and establish partner relations with Polyus.

— Last year a special emphasis was made on the roll-out and development of a safety culture. Why?

— A culture of safety has a direct impact on reducing the injury rate. To assess the safety culture objectively, all production and service companies undergo an independent audit. Out programs help increase transparency — all injuries or micro injuries are declared, and this in turn helps to ensure a better investigation of near-misses to prevent any incidents in the future. And for sure, the safety culture directly impact the proactive behavior of both workers and managers.

— Will these initiatives continue into this year?

— Yes, we are clear on our plans, we will apply the Bradley safety culture maturity system. There is a positive trend in reduction of the injury rate, and this strategy is fully approved by the Board of directors, who gave a high appraisal to Polyus’ safety performance.

The environment is everyone’s business

— One more area you are responsible for is environmental protection. What do you do in this area?

— Every employee is involved in reducing impact on the environment. For workers and technicians this mainly means compliance with the rules of safe waste treatment and upkeep of the waste accumulation areas. For engineers, it is the assignment of responsibility for the operation of environmental protection equipment, compliance with processes, the safe operation of hydraulic structures, rational use of water resources.

— One year ago, corporate training was supplemented with a module on environmental protection for managers, engineers and workers. What is it?

— It is a three-stage environmental safety program that trains our staff in environmental matters. The program sections are tailored towards staff of various management level to the highest degree. The curriculum for managers includes legislation regulating environmental activity, treatment of environmental risk, international requirements; the curriculum for workers includes practical steps to ensure environmental safety on workplaces. The curriculum for engineers has a more comprehensive section on environmental protection equipment, keeping records, design, etc.

— Is your focus on the environment limited to only the training of personnel?

— No, training is only one element of our efforts aimed at mitigating any potential negative environmental impact of our enterprises. Environmental departments across all of Polyus’ enterprises control the performance of gas treatment equipment and sewage plants, compliance with requirements on waste burial, disposal and neutralization, as well as conducting continuous environmental monitoring in our areas of operations. Among other things, this data works as a feedback system to production departments for process improvement and negative impact mitigation.

Leadership as a priority

— What does Polyus do in line with the sustainability programs?

— We are developing robustly in this area as well; our performance has been recognized by international ESG ratings. These ratings influence investor opinion and have an impact on potential borrowings, and last year we improved our rankings in several indices. This means that Polyus is a socially responsible employer attractive from a financial point of view. We are also members of the International Council on Mining and Metals, established in 2001, whose purpose is to improve sustainability in the mining sector, and we have a large program in the Council.

— What does this program include in particular?

— As an active member of ICMM, Polyus is involved in implementing the Council’s key initiatives to promote best practices in our industry. For example, together with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), ICMM started to prepare a global standard for the safe and sustainable management of mine tailings facilities in 2019. After the TSF dam failure in Brumadinho in 2019, which killed 270 local people and miners, the international community developed a particular focus on TSF safety, and our industry cannot leave these concerns and expectations unresolved.

Over the year, a draft standard was drawn up, and global public consultations started in November 2019. This is an intermediate step to allow for critique, feedback and suggestions from industry representatives and stakeholders in order to finalize the Standard. Polyus actively takes part in the implementation of this initiative including the internal review and feedback on the text and implementation methods of the Standard; discussion of the draft Standard in designated working groups, included the personal participation of Polyus’ CEO.

With the release scheduled for this year, the Standard will be a guideline for ICMM companies to follow in their operations, in addition to national legislative requirements.

— You talked about practical initiatives implemented by Polyus. What is the general strategic purpose of these?

— The purpose is to maintain Polyus’ leading position in HSE&SD among Russia’s mining companies. Our goal is to be among the top three mining companies.

The Bradley scale reflects the maturity of a company’s safety culture and H&S performance. The scale shows the awareness of each employee of safety issues.

The maturity is assessed on the basis of several parameters, including management commitment, employee motivation and participation, training on H&S standards and completion of required audits.

William Champion, member of the Board of directors, Independent Director, Chairman of the Operations Committee:

“I was very pleased with the continued development and implementation of the behavioral-based safety program at Polyus in 2019. I know there is still much work to be done in 2020, but I remain confident that all senior leaders within the company will continue to demonstrate their personal support to this key HSE program and HSE team will keep doing their best as before. Our LTIFR for 2019 is 0.08; 38% down to the 2016. Our safety performance metrics have now been trending in a positive direction for the last four years; however, I believe we can make a major step in this positive trend in 2020 by working diligently towards implementing all of the various requirements and key initiatives necessary to improve our Bradley Scale metrics from 2.4 points for the Group achieved in 2019 to planned 2.6 in 2020.

Every Polyus employee is responsible for their own safety. In addition to this, employees must work collaboratively to improve the training, knowledge and commitment of themselves and others, and support our commitment to be the safest gold mining company in Russia. In my many years of working in the mining industry, I have always found that companies that excel in safety performance also excel in operational productivities and cost control. If we are successful at evolving our company to become a «high performance» culture, we will be well rewarded for our efforts.”