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June 2, 2015
Chile has a strong set of safety standards for large-scale mining, but enforcement can be a challenge. For Javier Aramayo, Atlas Copco’s Senior Safety Health Officer at the Radomiro Tomic opencast mine, safety is a passion.
In Chile, mine safety has moved to the top of the agenda. After a series of fatalities in 2007, a new mining inspectorate responsible for regulating safety in the mining industry was created within the National Service of Geology and Mining. Safety standards were not the issue, as Chile has a rigorous set of standards for large-scale mining. The challenge was enforcement, particularly in small to medium-sized mining operations.
For Javier Aramayo, Atlas Copco’s Senior Safety Health Officer at the Radomiro Tomic opencast mine in northern Chile, safety is a passion. “If you want to see the person ultimately responsible for your safety,” he says, “look in the mirror.”
The mine is situatedin Chile’s Atacama desert, 3 000 meters above sea level in the Andes mountains. This is where Aramayo oversees the safety of the employees working on drilling contracts for Codelco, the National Copper Corporation of Chile – the world’s largest copper-producing company. Although he stresses the importance of individual responsibility in safety and health at work, Aramayo says that this can only be achieved when there is an underlying safety and health culture.
Aramayo is a stocky, no-nonsense presence who is known throughout the mine, constantly bustling around observing every level of activity that involve Atlas Copco workers. “We have to appreciate that the work we do is inherently dangerous,” he says. “I need to know that our people go home to their families safe and sound,”
His mission is to see that the 77 people on the Atlas Copco team take to heart the challenges of risk prevention and safety. With personnel distributed through administration, engineering maintenance, logistics and operations, and the risk prevention unit itself, Aramayo’s responsibilities are wide-ranging. He stresses that good practice has an impact on all site personnel, not just the Atlas Copco team.
“Everyone’s safety is interrelated in a hazardous environment, and I think that our example has influenced safety standards throughout the mine,” he says. “A good safety policy is one that everyone takes to heart and acts on. The real risk is that people don’t think it applies to them. No safety strategy is going to work unless everyone understands why they have to comply with safety standards and takes responsibility for themselves and their fellow workers. If we can achieve that, and we back it up with the best possible maintenance of machinery and equipment, then we have made this tough working environment as safe as we can.”