Supporting our employees' health

In health, we believe that prevention is preferable to treatment.

Our employees are our most important asset. Promoting and enhancing their health and welfare is as vital as protecting their safety.

Our goal is zero new cases of occupational illness.

Our long term health improvement strategy focuses on eliminating occupational illness by reducing workplace exposure. Regular internal and independent external audits are part of this strategy.

All of our sites acquired prior to 2005 are certified to OHSAS 18001 (Occupational Health & Safety Assessment Series). All newly acquired or commissioned sites are required to be OHSAS 18001 certified within two years.

Our occupational health standards

Implementing health standards has increased employee awareness of health issues and enhanced performance. Our occupational health standards are aligned with broader Rio Tinto occupational health standards. These standards apply to all employees and are audited regularly to drive continuous improvement.
Our occupational health standards cover the following areas:

  • Risk management
  • Workplace monitoring
  • Medical and first aid treatment
  • Occupational medical surveillance
  • Particulate and gas/vapour exposures
  • Hearing conservation
  • Manual handling and vibration
  • Hazardous substances
  • Radiation
  • Thermal stress
  • Travel and remote site health
  • Occupational exposure limits

Accountability and expertise

Line managers are accountable for their team's occupational health performance. At each site, competent and trained health personnel assist line management to implement the health strategy and reduce health risks. They also monitor workplace conditions to control exposure to health hazards.

Reducing occupational illness

We identify health risks on an ongoing basis and implement programmes to address them.

Ergonomic issues: Musculoskeletal problems are one of the most common causes of new occupational illnesses. These problems result not only from heavy lifting but from repeated trauma causing inflammation such as tendonitis. We are actively working to reduce our ergonomic risks by finding better, safer and more efficient ways of performing required tasks.

Dust and chemical stressors: Through a very active industrial hygiene program we are monitoring the workplace and our workers for exposures to dust and chemical stressors and finding solutions to lower these exposures and better protect our employees.

Noise: Heavy equipment and many of the processes in our sites tend to generate high noise levels, which is why noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is still a problem. We are working on engineering solutions to reduce noise levels at the source as well as providing personal hearing protection devices and regular audiometry.

Improving health beyond our sites

Health management does not stop at the boundaries of our sites. We are also active in establishing health programmes in our host communities.

We increasingly operate in countries where the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria is high. Our comprehensive HIV strategy enables our workplaces and host communities to achieve lower HIV infection rates and better treatment options than the norm for the country. 

We have helped develop practical guidelines for site managers on implementing programmes to manage HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. We work closely with relevant government agencies and non government organisations to enhance their capacity to respond to these diseases.