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A journey in safety culture

The Boart Longyear team in Laos, on target for 10 years LTI free.

Boart Longyear has achieved 10 million consecutive man-hours worked with no lost time injuries. The milestone reflects years of hard work on its engineering, systems and people. Safe to work writes.

Boart Longyear is a global mineral exploration company with an extensive history that dates back to 1890.

Fast-forward almost 130 years, and the company now employs approximately 4900 personnel, including supervisors, drillers, mechanics, technicians and welders to name a few, making its most recent achievement even more remarkable.

In July this year, Boart Longyear announced a company-wide global accomplishment of more than 10 million consecutive man-hours worked with no lost time injuries (LTI) and one-year completely LTI-free.

The milestone, however, hasn’t been a swift feat, but rather a product of many years of developing a safety culture that has supported staff and even today, continues to build momentum.

“This fantastic milestone is the result of many years of hard work,” Boart Longyear regional director drilling services Asia Pacific (APAC) John Kirkwood says.


Boart Longyear credits this achievement first to its people. The company recognises that its first responsibility is to provide employees a safe working environment.

“For us, it starts with the right culture in the business and deliberately working on that culture consistently,” Kirkwood says.

The culture that is now pervasive throughout the company’s global operations is one that Kirkwood emphasises is based on the fundamental belief that staff should always feel comfortable and safe at work.

“People deserve to leave their family and personal life and earn a living where they feel respected, secure and safe,” he says.

The Boart Longyear team in Laos, on target for 10 years LTI free.


“From day one on the job, Boart Longyear employees feel like they can talk to anyone about any safety concerns they may have.”

This culture is one that Boart Longyear environmental, health, safety, and training (EHS&T) manager, APAC, James Laws says is evident the moment new staff members enter the business.

“Our culture is consistent around the world. When people join the business, they walk in and understand what is acceptable through the behaviour of others, leaders in the business modelling the behaviour and setting everyone up with clear expectations,” Laws says.

“New employees complete an extensive range of 31 training modules, detailing the way the company works and how to manage risk, so we all make it safe, make it personal, and make it home.”

Both on-the-job and online training modules are managed through the Boart Longyear integrated training system and provides a systematic way of managing training needs within the business.

The safety focus becomes evident during day-to-day operations, exemplified by the adoption of pre-shift meetings that occur daily, where staff can safely plan for the shift ahead.

“We have field personnel working 12-hour shifts, so the first thing we do at the beginning of every shift is hold a safety meeting,” Kirkwood says.

“These meetings address the tasks they will perform in the day ahead, allows them to express any concerns and review any standard work procedures and fill out any field level risk assessments (FLRA) to identify all the steps of a task, brainstorm potential hazards associated with each step of that task and the controls needed to safely complete the task.

“Supervisors are trained to listen in these meetings, provide guidance and help ensure the tasks for the shift will be performed safely. This also makes supervisors accountable for the safety of their crews.”


A safety focussed database repository and a robust learning management system are part of the tools the company uses to continually improve safety, the safety culture and helps keep employees safer at work.

Each component of safety is recorded, tracked and monitored in this database. The system syncs with an app that makes reporting available on mobile devices either offline or online – so sites without internet access can create a new record. Reporting from this system helped Boart Longyear identify critical risks.

Surface coring driller Lyn Ferrai (centre) with Boart Longyear colleagues.


The introduction of Boart Longyear’s critical risk management programs and simplified company field standards have been the latest driver in its safety culture.

Boart Longyear defines critical risk as potentially fatal or with permanent damage. Boart Longyear’s critical risks have been identified through a taxonomy analysis of 10 years’ worth of incident data. These risks are the focus of the Boart Longyear’s critical risk management program.

The Boart Longyear critical risk management program consists of EHS standards that outline critical controls, critical risk training modules – delivered through the company’s online learning management system.

Critical control verification is expected to be completed by leaders and are tracked through the safety database.

Simplified field standards are found in the EHS management system field reference. The collection of standards and reference material is for quick reference to company expectations.

EHS standards apply to all employees working in a safety sensitive work environment, which includes drilling services field employees, shop and field mechanics, shop floor manufacturing operators, warehouse employees, and any visitor to these areas.

The safety systems incorporate safety programs such as the ‘stop work authority’, which authorises and mandates employees to immediately stop any work that does not comply with safety standards.

“This program tells new staff and reminds existing ones that they have the authority and the responsibility to stop anything any time with no repercussions to ensure that everyone feels safe on the job site,” Kirkwood says.

“With direct reports, this system encourages the team to stop, and speak to supervisors about potentially dangerous activities before an accident happens.”

This program exists alongside others such as the THINK acronym, standing for the process used to act when coming across a risky situation.

It involves first taking the time, recognising the hazard, identifying the risk, applying necessary controls and keeping safety first.

As such, Boart Longyear measures the success of its safety compliance through a mix of leading and lagging indicators, allowing the company to measure its safety performance against values rather than metrics.

Supervisors and those who are senior to them, are required to perform critical control verifications each month whenever an employee is completing a task that exposes them to a critical risk.

These are then entered into the company’s safety system to count against key performance indicators online, or through the system’s app.

It highlights a proactive approach which is being used on the ground at sites through environment, health and safety (EHS) technology, which is another tool being used to reduce hazardous activity.

Boart Longyear’s heavy investment in technology gives every rig and supervisor access to a suite of EHS tools on app based digital platforms, meaning all inspections, verifications, risk assessments and training materials are available on an smartphone or tablet.

The LX16i surface coring drill rig enhances safety by removing personnel from line of fire incidents.



The safety culture is backed by Boart Longyear capitalising on innovative solutions and the implementation of leading equipment to reduce the risk employees face on drilling sites. The company has a team of 40 engineers globally to design safer equipment.

Its introduction of remotely-operated drills removes personnel from the line of fire and interaction with live equipment.

This too, is a result of a culture of continuous improvement with the company expecting to enhance its fleet of industry-leading equipment in the coming year.

It is a combination of these three crucial factors – people, systems and engineering – that has contributed to this latest safety milestone.

The safety culture at Boart Longyear isn’t, however, even close to reaching a pinnacle, as Kirkwood insists that the focus going forward is on continuous improvement.

“While we’re very proud of our achievement, this is just the start and it’s gaining momentum,” Kirkwood says.

“We are on a journey which started many years ago, but the job is never done with regards to safety, we are always looking for ways to improve.”

This article also appears in the Oct–Dec edition of Safe to Work.


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