Best Practice in H&S

Coordination, cooperation and commitment is the key to success

Planning and coordination, cooperation between client and contractors and a shared commitment to safety issues are the ingredients for the safety work in the giant project expansion of Boliden Garpenberg.

The latest industry statistics from the Swedish mining industry association SveMin indicate a long-term declining trend in the accident frequency; that is, the number of accidents resulting in absence per million hours worked. The mining industry is better than the industry average in Sweden; an acknowledgement of the conducted safety work.

Statistics from the Swedish Work Environment Authority show that in particular the construction sector is suffering from fatal accidents. During the period from 2007 to 2012, 282 persons died in all branches of industry, 66 of them within the construction industry.

What is the effect on the work environment and the safety when the two industries meet? When existing facilities have to be renovated and new be constructed, this is inevitable. What happens with the security of the mining companies’ employees – and of course also of the construction companies’ staff – when the contractor work is carried out side by side with the ordinary mining operations?

According to the SveMin statistics for the same period, that is 2007-2012, seven fatal accidents occurred within the mining industry. Two of these occurred in the lime industry, while the ore mines have been free from fatal accidents. Five fatal accidents happened to contractor companies operating in mines, three of them in ore mines and two in the lime industry.

According to SveMin, most of the Swedish mining companies testify that contractors to a larger extent than the companies’ own employees suffer from accidents. What is the reason for this?

– There is no scientific explanation why contractors suffer more than the own staff, says Pia Lindström, EHS manager (environment, health and safety) at Boliden Mines. There are other types of professions and tasks in a construction project, regardless of what is being built.

– A building project is a changing process with many persons involved, while the ordinary work is the same from day to day with fewer individuals on site. The key to success for a well-functioning safety work is to plan ahead, to train and to coordinate, adds Pia Lindström.

A good example of this is Boliden’s expansion of Garpenberg in Dalarna. The investment amounts to SEK 3.9 billion and is one of Sweden’s major industry investments right now. The strong expansion involves an almost twofold increase of the current ore production, from 1.4 to 2.5 million tonnes per annum. The mine will reach full production by the end of 2015.

Above ground, a new concentration plant is built, with associated service buildings. In the mine, a new personnel shaft, a new production shaft, two new crushing stations, new ventilation installations and new infrastructure with electricity, water pumping and compressed air are built. In other words, a very extensive and intensive project.

– The decision to carry out the project was made on January 17, 2011 and we started with the underground rock works the same day, says Peter Richardson, project manager for the expansion of Boliden Garpenberg. One year later, the earthworks above ground started. The peak time was in autumn 2013, when there were about 700 persons in the project.

Many different professionals are involved, in particular rock workers, concrete workers and carpenters, as well as mechanics, electricians and plumbers.

At the same time, the ordinary mining is in operation. While the ore is hoisted to the ground using mine elevators, the rock waste must be transported from the mine by trucks since the capacity of the elevator is limited. The mining and construction works are basically in progress day-and-night, which means that the mine and the construction must share the only existing transport route.

– That means 40 minutes one-way down to the deepest parts of the project, tells Peter Richardson. At certain places, two-way travel is not possible. If a waste rock transport is on its way upwards, the trucks going down have to wait. And in the project we had up to eight trucks that should go up/down every day. But it was not a problem; we waited with the large, heavy transports until night, when there was a little less movement in the mining. You have to plan carefully, though.

Planning and coordination to avoid collisions, in all meanings of the word. These are two words that Peter Richardson uses over and over again. He talks about the project organization, which includes some fifty officials from Boliden and various consultants; a large group. About the careful preparations before the project started, about the regular, frequent synchronisations during the progress of the project, about always trying to stay ahead. About planning and coordination, with safety and work environment in focus.

– Already in the stage of sub-contractor procurement, the safety thinking is there, says Peter Richardson. We ensure that all companies that will work for us at Boliden Garpenberg have their permissions and are well prepared. We know who we admit and they know the routines that apply with us.

The safety routine includes that each individual working in the Boliden Garpenberg project must have completed the SSG Entre, a safety training course for industry contractors working in traditionally hazardous environments. The training includes both a general mining part and a specific part for the Garpenberg site. SSG Entre is a prerequisite to receive an access card. For those who worked underground, a local training focusing on safety underground was also required.

Of course, the project has been preceded by a thorough risk analysis, which forms the basis for the safety and work environment work. What special risks do you have to handle?

– In particular falling and dropping risks, since people are working at heights and in deep shafts and many persons are working in small areas under and above each other, answers Peter Richardson.

The employer responsibility lies with each contractor, for example that the correct protection equipment is used, that helmets with chin strap are used, that fall protection equipment and protection goggles are used when necessary. But the main responsibility for the safety lies with the client and for that reason regular controls of various types are performed. For example safety inspections and so-called Safety Walks, where the workplace management walks around to ensure that everything is functioning and to receive both advice and criticism.

The project has not completely managed without injuries since the start of construction, says Peter Richardson, but everyone has returned to work after among others bone, cutting and crushing injuries. But there is still some way to go to reach zero, which is the work environment goal within the entire Boliden group.

– You are never fully trained, you always have to develop. Therefore, we are now entering a process of experience feedback. We have to further clarify the different roles in the project, decide who is doing what and improve the communication and information to all parts and persons in the project.

And then Peter Richardson adds something that he believes is at least as important as planning and cooperation with the contractors regarding the safety of the contractors. Something which there is plenty of in the Boliden Garpenberg project.

– There is an incredible commitment to safety issues in this project. Only if each and every one is committed, the work safety can function.

Text: Antina-Maria Hessel, SveMin (Swedish Association of Mines, Mineral and Metal Producers)

Garpenberg expansion

A safe work environment


About Boliden Garpenberg

Mining in Garpenberg began in the early 13th century. This makes Garpenberg Sweden's oldest mine still in operation.

Boliden acquired Garpenberg in 1957, and exploration work has since resulted in a substantial increase in its ore reserves. Complex ore containing zinc, copper, lead, gold and silver is mined at Garpenberg. This type of metal mix has contributed to the mine's favourable cost position.

A decision to carry out a major expansion of operations at Garpenberg was taken in January 2011. A total of SEK 3.9 billion will be invested and will increase ore production at Garpenberg from the current level of 1.4 million tonnes to 2.5 million tonnes per annum. The expansion will be carried out between 2011 and 2014, with production being successively increased. Full production capacity will be reached by the end of 2015.

Short facts
Products: Zinc, silver, lead, copper and gold
Employees: 366
Established: 1957
Mining depth: 1250 m

Production 2013

Ore: 1,495 ktonnes
Zinc: 70,267 tonnes
Copper: 517 tonnes
Lead: 25,352 tonnes
Gold: 277 kg
Silver: 161,784 kg

Work environment and safety priority issues for the Swedish mining industry

The issue of safety work for contract works has several times been discussed in the Euromines Health & Safety Committee. To improve this work, it is important to highlight good examples to inspire both the mining companies and the contractors, says Cecilia Andersson, work environment responsible at SveMin and chairman of the Euromines Health & Safety Committee.

The Swedish mining industry has a long tradition of working with work environment and safety issues and safety is a highly prioritised issue. That the safety awareness has increased among all employees is also reflected in the accident statistics, which has decreased substantially in the recent decades.

Like other European companies, the Swedish mining companies engage a large number of contractors for various types of work. Some of the contractors have a long-term contract and others have short and temporary assignments. New risk situations always arise when several companies are to work within the same area and often the work is done under time pressure. It is important that nobody gets hurt or becomes ill from their work, regardless if it is a contractor or the companies’ own employees. The mining companies are taking a large responsibility to train the contractors in work environment issues and to continuously conduct coordination meetings where the work is planned and the risks are discussed and addressed.

Below are some important key points in the security work at the engagement of contractors. These points may seem obvious and most companies have routines in place, but in situations of time pressure it may be easy to take a “short cut”, for example skip a meeting, fail to provide information about a hazardous work to be conducted, etc. It is therefore important that the companies set up clear routines for how the cooperation with the contractors should be conducted and that everyone in the company, from senior managers, purchasing departments, production departments, sales departments, etc. is aware of and understands that the safety work needs to take some extra time and cost a little extra. Many companies also have to be tougher and suspend contractors that do not follow the agreed rules and routines.

Procurement of contract services

Require that the contractor company has a functioning work environment and safety work (it may cost a little more to buy services from a contractor company with a high level of safety).

Training of the contractors

General knowledge of the work environment and risk awareness
Special risks, routines, etc. at the client company
SSG ENTRE, example of a web based training for contractors

Planning of the work

Together, the client company and the contractor go through and plan the work to be conducted and discuss the risks that may arise.

Continuous risk analysis and follow-up

A routine for recurring meetings with contractors with long-term contracts should be in place, where risks and safety are discussed and common solutions to problems are developed.

Antina-Maria Hessel
Communication Manager, SveMin