Fit for Work
Keeping Employees’ Mental, Physical, and Emotional Wellness in Mind
Justin Longbotham, Safety Coordinator
FIT FOR WORK
As Safety Coordinator, my first concern is that the people who work at my mine get to work safely and are mentally and physically prepared to do their jobs—and that they do it safely throughout the day so they can go home in one piece.
You may be surprised to learn that safety starts at home. Are you sleeping enough? Are you staying hydrated? Are you eating enough, and properly? Some jobs here are physically demanding. If you’re guzzling those hyper-caffeinated energy drinks all day instead of water, you’re dehydrating your body and eventually it’s going to stop producing for you.
The ‘What I Do on My Own Time’ Myth
Many things done on personal time truly don’t matter. But if someone is taking illegal substances or overdoing legal ones (like alcohol in the evening), then coming to work in such a state that causes us to detect a problem, ‘reasonable suspicion’ allows us to send them to be tested. Or if someone’s responsible for even a minor incident, we can do the same. Safety Coordinators extensively trained to observe these behaviors because they’re tightly connected with safety.
This is also part of our Stop Work Authority policy. We tell everyone, if you see something, say something.
Mentally is more difficult to read
Tracking mental fitness takes some familiarity. Once we’ve learned an employee’s ‘normal,’ we are more likely to recognize if there’s a change. Causes could include a lack of sleep, a family issue, or drug or alcohol abuse. Sometimes substance abuse issues and family problems are connected.
If someone is at work but worrying about an issue at home instead of paying attention to their task, it could result in an incident or injury. There is an 800-number hotline our employees can call for counseling help if they feel overwhelmed by life. Black Mountain wants to help any way we can.
Keeping It Fresh
Because we all need reminders, we cover safety behaviors at least once a month, and Safety Coordinators usually talk about them weekly or even daily at meetings. Don’t worry, we keep the topics short! The best way to get buy-in is to show everyone, through regular interaction, that we are all part of the team— these rules apply to all of us.
Some ask why there are so many safety procedures. Well, 99.9 percent of them were written through blood, sweat and tears, because someone was seriously injured or died. We want to prevent that.
Physical and mental health go hand-in-hand. All the other safety procedures, such as checking your surroundings and signing off on a Permit to Work, require a keen eye and an alert mind. Someone who’s tired, sick, worried or chemically impaired can’t get there.
To that extent, what someone does on their own time matters greatly. Their family is depending on them—and so are we.