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Zero Fatalities: The Critical Risks Management Approach

Implementing a corporate model to control the top safety risks across different operations or sites is possible to achieve, but it’s not easy to do: aligning the entire company is a critical factor of success. This article tells one of Vantaz many experiences on the matter.

Health and Safety are major concerns for mining and resource oriented companies. Eliminating fatalities at workplace is key to performance within HSE and the current trend is to arrest fatalities by focusing on the management of critical risks -or the ones with the highest Residual Risk Rating, a combination of risk probability and impact severity- in a standardised manner that involves the entire corporate hierarchy.

This critical risk management model is not easy to achieve, however, Vantaz has had many successful experiences implementing it, one of which is detailed below.

The Project

Our client, the HSE department of one of the main mining companies in Chile, needed to implement a safety model that would allow them to better control their critical safety risks and eliminate fatalities occurring in its multiple operations.

Vantaz’s approach on this matter was clear from the start: work closely with the operating areas, with both employees and contractors, to identify the top safety risks of their areas and devise ways to mitigate their impacts, while also engaging the executives in the process, to endorse the model and align the organisation.

For the model to succeed, a key element was the definition of the critical controls as a concept and the corresponding inherent characteristics that would qualify a control as effective. Also important was defining the binary questions for onsite verification of the controls; questions that could be answered by simple Yes or No options with regard to the performance standards defined for each control.

A strong Change Management process was a fundamental part of the project, given the cultural change implied by the new model. After all, empowering operators to stop work if the safety conditions specified for their jobs are not met, is no trivial thing in production intensive environment.

Since several operations and all their areas were involved in the project, although led by HSE, a lot of standardisation was required, to improve the reporting of incidents and events and have all subsidiary companies on the same page in terms of taxonomy, not just for risks and critical controls, but for every single element of the integrated model. The safety language across all operations would be just one.


The first part of the project concluded with the identification of the Top 5 safety risks for the entire company with corresponding standardised critical controls and performance standards, together with a verification plan covering different hierarchical levels. This was supported by tools to conduct onsite verifications of the critical controls.

Thanks to the extensive Change Management process carried out, the whole company (including contractors) is aware of the importance of the risk management process, know the risks in the areas they work, and the corresponding controls that must be in place in order for them to do their job safely.

As a result, incidents reduced in about 40% for the top 5 risks during the first three months, and now the same process is being replicated for the rest of the top 10 critical risks.

Lessons Learned

From this project and other similar experiences, some critical success factors that Vantaz has identified are:

• To involve operations and executives in the design phase, through workshops, so everyone feels part of the “safety journey” and are familiar with the concepts and resolutions.

• KPIs from this model must be tied to employee’s performance evaluation, so all hierarchical levels realise the importance of complying with the model’s guidelines and ensure the sustainability of the model over time.

• The model is dynamic: employees and contractors need to be involved in continuous review and improvement based on the verification process outputs. This ensures the model sustainability.

By focusing on critical safety risks, and involving all areas of the company in the process, our client has greatly reduced the likeliness of fatalities happening in their operations, while also establishing a safety-oriented organisational culture. At Vantaz, we are proud of having delivered this critical project, the kind that saves lives.