Rocks falling off high walls, the regular use of explosives, electrical cords carrying high voltage in very big shovels, and super large haul trucks driving around make for a work environment that has the potential to hurt or even kill people.
But, despite those types of dangers, Montana Resources celebrated Monday its 3,652th day — or 10 straight years — of no lost time due to a work accident.
Nearly 60 years ago, The Montana Standard reported a different kind of story. An accident to a haul driver in the Berkeley Pit put him in the hospital and ended the Anaconda Company’s 137 days of no lost time due to work accidents.
Mike McGivern, MR vice president of human resources, said Tuesday that every industry has gotten safer, not just mining, and not just MR.
“It’s not okay to hurt people on a job and it’s not okay to act in an unsafe manner,” McGivern said.
But he said MR is particularly cautious when it comes to safety. Even though McGivern, who is a safety engineer by training, is the highest-ranking MR official who oversees safety, he says the credit belongs not to him but to Rolin Erickson, president of MR, and to the workers.
“At the end of the day, it’s the top guy who drives the culture. We all report to him. He (Erickson) deserves a lot of the credit, as do the other 369 men and women who go home safe and healthy every day,” McGivern said.
MR’s safety record is “commendable,” said an administrator with Mine Safety and Health Administration — and that was in 2015. The mining company on the east side of Butte has not had an accident that involved a regular employee and resulted in lost time at work since July 8, 2009.
“You have no idea how proud Rolin is and the senior staff of the accomplishments of MR’s workforce. It really is a tremendous milestone,” McGivern said.
Montana State Fund, the state's largest workers' compensation insurance company, acknowledged MR’s safety record a few years ago with a check for $58,164. At the time, officials with Montana State Fund said Montana overall ranked 40 percent higher than the rest of the nation in worker-related accidents in 2016.
Even though going through safety protocols on a constant basis — McGivern said some crews have daily safety meetings — can be time consuming and could be seen as eating into the mine’s profits, McGivern said that’s not the culture at MR.
“The safest mines are the most productive,” McGivern said is the motto at MR. “It’s an investment well spent.”