Teck’s health and safety teams have played a critical role during the COVID-19 pandemic, working tirelessly to ensure strong protocols and preventative measures are in place across our company. For the team at Teck’s steelmaking coal operations in the Elk Valley under the leadership of Dallas Cain, Manager, Health and Safety, their work led to the achievement of remarkable health and safety outcomes, including a conformance rate of 98% across more than 32,000 COVID-19 field assurance checks.
Dallas shared with Connect how the team’s work unfolded as the pandemic broke, some of the challenges they faced along the way, and how they plan to make use of their learnings.
On how they reacted in the first phase of the pandemic…
“Usually, it takes quite a bit of time to develop and implement procedures and protocols through the change management process. But the rapid spread of COVID-19 changed that and put everything in fast-forward. Really quickly, we came together as a larger group with the health and safety teams from corporate and the other business units to develop procedures, review them through stakeholder groups, and get them in place at sites. Right away, we also started auditing against the procedures implemented to see how they were being used and if they were effective.
“As we move through phase two, we’re maintaining these procedures at sites while consistently reassessing them to make sure they're still applicable, effective and aligned with information and guidelines provided by government and health authorities.”
On steps they took to put effective measures in place…
“We did two really important things right away. The first was to implement pre-screening at sites and the second was to be sure people really understood the symptoms of COVID-19 and what do to if you had them. Next, we worked with the corporate health and safety team to establish response protocols – so that we had a plan if a potential case was reported at site – and adapted these as required for each of our operations. We then developed transportation and close-proximity work protocols, to safely manage work that required people to be within six feet of each other, and redeployed a number of people to help support these new procedures as needed."
On working closely with health authorities and communities…
“The immediate response for many people, understandably, was a lot of concern. In order to help address this, we worked closely with the Interior Health Authority and regulatory agencies right from the start of the pandemic. That meant being in regular communication with them and sharing with them the measures we put in place through their site inspections and tours – all with very positive outcomes.
“One of the big concerns we heard from our local healthcare providers, emergency departments, and search and rescue teams was regarding medical supplies. Knowing Teck’s buying power and our established supply chains, we felt we could help. And as a result, over the past few months, we have been able to donate much-needed supplies consistently throughout the community to address this concern.
“We were also able to assist local schools with their response protocols by providing them with PPE and distancing stickers, as well as offering information and guidance on the effective procedures we had put in place to keep people healthy and safe.
“I've been fortunate to be able to help facilitate a number of those donations and discussions, and the feedback we’ve had from the community has been awesome. It’s definitely strengthened those relationships and there was very sincere appreciation from the groups that Teck has been able to help.”
On how they worked to address challenges…
“Consistent communication has been key. Early on in the pandemic, there was a daily call set up with the Health and Safety Leads in Coal, which then expanded to include representation from some other business units. We maintained these daily discussions seven days a week for the first two months. The contributions brought forward from teams at different sites helped us to solve issues we had encountered first thing in the morning and prepared us to face the day.
There were some tense moments amongst us as we challenged ideas, protocols and procedures, and figured out how we were going to apply health and safety controls to combat COVID-19. Together we were driven by a ‘One Teck’ approach and there was collaboration to make sure we were making the best decisions based on the information we had.”
On the positives outcomes and opportunities for learning…
“COVID-19 has tested us and shown our health and safety culture is stronger than ever. Our workforce was committed to helping us figure out if and how we could continue to safely operate, with incredible efforts from across all our sites. Our unions and union representation, and their ability to support us as we moved through this together, has been exceptional.
“We're still very involved in the day-to-day work. I'm looking forward to when we're in a position to take more of a step back and reflect on our learnings and how we can apply those in other ways moving forward—not just in a pandemic, but in all the work we do. Until then, we’ll maintain our strong focus of effective COVID-19 control implementation. From right across our organization, it’s been a full team effort, and for now I just can’t say enough about the contributions everyone's made to keeping our people safe and healthy through all this.”