Zero Harm: A Review of Underlying Principles, Application, Advantages and Disadvantages


Tom Hethmon, SSR Mining

One of the most universally recognizable changes to occur in the mining industry in the past decade has been the adoption of Zero Harm as a performance goal or statement of intent.  As with most disruptive philosophies or technologies, Zero Harm has caused a ripple effect in the industry that most casual observers would characterize as positive. It has served as a catalyst for internal debate regarding mining company’s safety vision. It has become a default performance standard for others.  It is aspirational for many but implies the need for a high degree of risk management and safety. It has also become a source of controversy with some stakeholders who argue it is unrealistic and demotivating. In light of these considerations, it is important for organizations exploring the adoption of Zero Harm to ensure full consideration is given to its meaning (implied or self-defined), purpose and the degree to which the organization is prepared to operate in order to achieve Zero Harm. This presentation explores Zero Harm as a practical concept and the variables that inform how successful companies will be in achieving it.  The path to Zero Harm includes the need to improve ongoing technical challenges such as energy sequestration, ventilation, ground control, equipment management, among others, but also sociotechnical issues such as systems, human error, leadership, organizational culture, and learning.  Successfully pursuing Zero Harm requires both a need to optimize mining operations and the way industry stakeholders think about risk, safety and performance.
Keywords: Zero harm, safety, goal, vision,