Health & Safety
Baffinland has robust Emergency and Crisis Management Plans with pandemics in place that includes an infectious disease component. We continue to monitor the spread of the pandemic and actively develop and implement the necessary steps to keep employees safe, help eliminate the risk of transmitting the virus to Nunavut communities, and protect our operation. This is done while following the guidance of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), provincial and territorial governments and global business continuity experts.
We adjust our approach by reassessing and adopting mitigation measures as new information becomes available and as the situation develops. Decisions continue to be made with the best available information we have, keeping in mind our two main priorities: the health and safety of all employees and the viability of the business.
To further increase the level of protection and our ability to respond effectively against the pandemic at this time, we have taken another important safety step by securing a portable COVID-19 testing lab for our site operation. The testing is an additional safety measure to the many other measures currently in place (see below for all) to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 amongst our workforce and our communities.
We are working with the Canadian company, GuardRX - a leader in the development of life-saving products, such as COVID-19 testing equipment that can be immediately utilized to improve the response to emergencies of public health concern.
- Baffinland recently implemented a mobile test lab at site which has:
- Enabled COVID-19 testing for all Baffinland’s employees and contractors on site
- Allowed for rapid and accurate COVID-19 testing
- Provided the opportunity for an early diagnosis and immediate containment of any potential risk
- Supported taking action immediately, in keeping with all existing Public Health Agency of Canada protocols
All Baffinland employees and contractors are required to be tested. This allows us to provide the best opportunity to protect everyone and build upon the preventive controls already in place.
For more information about GuardRX, please visit: http://www.guardrx.org/
The existing safety measures include, but are not limited to:
- Nunavummiut workforce were returned or requested to remain home. One of the first measures Baffinland implemented in response to COVID-19 was to return our Nunavummiut home in mid-March with full compensation. This proactive decision was taken to help protect our Nunavummiut employees and their communities. Nunavut’s medical and health infrastructure throughout the North and more specific, our directly affected communities, are at high risk as there are some limited remedial controls to manage any level of infection. That is why we have taken this approach. Until confident that we will help eliminate the potential of introducing COVID-19 into these communities, we will stop flying employees from these areas to Site. As of April 14, 2020 these employees, currently staying at home have now been put on standby pay rates with full group benefits. Reverting to standby wages was not an easy decision to take. Baffinland is working on several initiatives to help ensure that we can continue to protect our employees for the longer term.
- Baffinland’s high-risk (i.e. most vulnerable) employees sent home. The Public Health Agency of Canada’s website says that the most susceptible to COVID-19 are those 65 and older with underlying conditions. To also help protect this demographic and help eliminate the mine site as a potential point of entry for COVID-19 into the Arctic, our most vulnerable employees with certain underlying medical conditions were also sent home in mid-March (e.g. heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, cancer or those who have a compromised immune system from a medical condition or treatment, such as chemotherapy). As of April 14, 2020 these employees, currently staying at home have been put on standby rates with full group benefits. Standby wages were implemented as we are incurring significant, additional costs as a result of COVID-19 and in order to help manage these additional costs and protect the financial well-being of employees. We expect these costs will continue for the foreseeable future and will plan accordingly.
The following preventive controls and increased Site health and safety protocols are in place to further aid in reducing the transmission of COVID-19 and other seasonal cold, flu and viruses. These include, but are not limited to:
- Increased frequency of sanitized cleaning at Site and of equipment. Stringent increase in employee hygiene practices including additional handwashing stations, sanitizers and sterile wipes.
- Additional Physician Assistants to assist in precautions and response in the event of potential issues.
- Physical distancing on site– no social events, spaced tables and seating, constant sterilization and hygiene in cafeteria area.
- All emergency medical supplies, equipment and medication required to assist with managing the COVID-19 virus have been secured and are available on site.
- Baffinland has put all visits to our Mary River Project facilities by non-Project staff on hold effective immediately and until further notice.
- Reopened a 380-person camp at Milne Port: in order to improve the quality of life for our employees and to further support precautionary measures, we reopened a facility that had been closed and added new room services and a reconditioned kitchen, for example. Approximately 90 of our Matrix employees moved to this 380-person camp. The Sailiivik camp is not be affected by this change.
- Quarantine plans are in place should someone exhibit symptoms at Site. An entire wing of the camp residence facility has been isolated and sterilized. Protocols are in place to ensure any employees displaying any symptom of COVID-19 will be isolated and monitored until direction from the Baffinland doctor and the PHAC is decided. As part of our Crisis Management Plan, we have evacuation plans should someone become seriously ill.
- To further increase the level of protection and our ability to respond effectively against the pandemic at this time, we have taken another important step in responding by securing a portable COVID-19 testing lab to have at site. The Testing Lab and three technicians are scheduled to be on site on April 22 with actual testing planned to begin on April 23.
- If an employee or contractor feels any signs or symptoms of a fever (temperature above normal), experience a new cough or shortness of breath, even if mild, we are asking that they do not come into the workplace, to self-isolate and contact their Physician or health care provider - immediately.
- Effective April 15, 2020 employees are working a 28-days on and 28-days off schedule to minimize the risk of an infected person coming to Site. This shift rotation will stay in place only as long as necessary to ensure the continued and safe operation of the mine. [As per the Mines Act 2.01 (5), a person who works for a period longer than eight hours in a day is entitled to take a day of rest after 14 consecutive days of work.]
- Business offices temporarily closed: The Oakville Corporate Head Office, Northern Head Office in Iqaluit, and our Community Liaison Offices (i.e. Arctic Bay, Clyde River, Igloolik, Pond Inlet and Sanirajak – previously named Hall Beach) will continue to be temporarily closed to the public with employees working from home.
- We regularly communicate with our employees to ensure they have the necessary facts and tools to deal with this ongoing situation at the workplace, and in their personal lives.
- Employee and Family Assistance Program (EAFP): We continue to encouraging our employees to make use of our Employee and Family Assistance Program should they or a member of their immediate family feel the need to speak with someone, on a personal and confidential basis. Our EAFP services are available to employees through Homewood Health. It is free, available 24/7 and the details of conversations are completely confidential.
Best safe practices for employees flying in and out of the mine include:
- Implemented a Commuter (Air Charter) Service. This service includes every major city in every province with Western employees flying directly to site from Winnipeg and Eastern Canada flying into the LUX terminal in St. Hubert before going to site. Employees undergo a physical assessment before entering the plane. This is an attempt to add an additional step to distance employees from commercial traffic.
- Effective April 20, 2020, the Minister of Transport has mandated that each passenger will be required to have a (non-medical) face mask prior to boarding, and wearing it for the entire duration of the flight. You may remove the mask when eating or drinking, or when you are seated 2 meters from another passenger.This is an additional risk control measure and Chrono and Summit will be required to strictly enforce this regulation otherwise they can be heavily fined.
- Increased sanitization and physical distancing measures for flights. This includes keeping the middle seat open on all flights and pre-flight medical checks.
- Passenger screening at all aerodrome facilities prior to travelling to our site operations. This includes screening for exposure to high risk areas, symptoms and a mandatory temperature check.
Preventative Airline Measures
- Any travel to our remote operations is business essential only.
All business travel outside Canada or into known infected areas/locations has been eliminated.
- All business travel within Canada, particularly travel that involves transiting within international airports, or into known infected areas/locations shall be business essential only and must be approved by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Operating Officer (COO) and the Director of Health, Safety, Environment, Security and Training (HSEST).
Here are some protocols that St. Hubert airport, airlines Baffinland uses and hotels employees stay in are taking to keep their travelers safe as learned from their websites:
- Increased best practices for pre-flight employee and passenger screening, including travel questionnaires and temperature assessments, for all flights.
- Establishment of further buffer zone, (where applicable on ATR72 passenger aircraft) by blocking off first row of seating.
- Removal of all inflight magazines.
- Use of bottled water only which is provided to passengers prior to boarding.
- End of most inflight services.
- Establishment of consistent flight crew teams as much as possible.
- Adoption of latest recommendations and best industry practices for enhanced aircraft grooming.
- Modification of pre-boarding and in-flight procedures to reduce in-person contact where possible.
Chrono Aviation, Chrono Jet, WAAS and St. Hubert (LUX) employees
- Baffinland passengers will be screened by Associated Medical Services (AMS) for COVID-19 in a trailer that will be stationed outside of the terminal. This includes:
- having their temperatures taken
- completing a questionnaire prior to their arrival at the terminal
- If a passenger is asymptomatic, they will be issued a boarding pass, and they will go through security. Once through security, these passengers are not permitted to leave the waiting area.
- Extra steps to disinfect the aircraft after each flight and looking into stronger disinfectant products at the moment that can be safely used in the aircraft.
- If flight or cabin crew observe a passenger who is showing signs of flu like symptoms (cough, difficulty breathing, or chills) and do not look well in general, it will be reported to the Captain immediately. The Captain shall advise dispatch or the flight followers of the situation so it may be further assessed.
- During check-in process, LUX agents may deny boarding to anyone who appears to be sick. A passenger who is showing signs of flu like symptoms (cough, difficulty breathing, or chills) and do not look well in general will be reported to the Captain immediately. A medical certificate may be required to board the aircraft.
Preventative Accommodation Measures
Best Western and other hotel accommodations in place
- No sharing of rooms for employees and contractors.
- Implemented changes to the hotel's daily operations (e.g. the shuttle service leaves the hotel every hour on the hour to mitigate waiting times.
- Breakfast is offered in the "Grab and Go bag" format only.
- Increased sanitizing and cleaning.
As circumstances evolve, please know that all of us at Baffinland are doing everything we can to manage and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the safety of our employees, our stakeholders, and the viability of the business in mind.
Baffinland has informed the Government of Nunavut Health Department of the measures being taken at our project site and will continue to monitor Health Canada and Government of Nunavut advisories.
For the latest, trusted and most up-to-date information, we recommend visiting the Public Health Agency of Canada's web page on COVID-19. You can also follow Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, on Twitter at @CPHO_Canada.
These steps to help reduce the risk of infection and protect communities from a potential introduction of COVID-19 are consistent with our values (i.e., respect and doing the right thing).
Thank you again for everything you are doing to stay healthy and safe.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us.
Health and Safety is at the core of everything we do. We continue the successful implementation of our Health, Safety, Environment, and Community (HSEC) Management System based on our Vision, Policies, and Standards. Our risk-based approach to managing health and safety is focused on identifying risks and implementing effective controls for all activities.
Interaction with our employees and contractors through visible in field leadership and discussion, risk assessments, Health & Safety Committees, daily pre-start meetings, layered audits, and robust training further support our “Safety First, Always” approach. Our strong health and safety culture, built on our “Safety First, Always” philosophy is about having the right controls in place that will foster and build a risk sensitive safety culture that will lead to improved safety outcomes in all areas of our business.