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Driving Zero Harm with Efficiency Improvements in Contractor Management

The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 defines a contractor as “any person, partnership, corporation, subsidiary of a corporation, firm, association or other organization that contracts to perform services or construction at a mine.” Contractors are men and women who contribute significantly to the daily outputs — the products and services — required by successful mining organizations.

Contractor personnel are more “vulnerable” to hazards than full-time mine employees. A recently published article by New South Wales (NSW) Industry and Investment magazine, offered riveting data provided by the NSW Work Cover and Coal Services Pty Ltd. They show that contractors accounted for half of all fatalities in the NSW mining industry between 2001/02 and 2006/07. In coal mines, four out of five fatalities (in this same period) were contractors. Almost a third of all serious bodily injuries have been sustained by contractors. (State of New South Wales through Industry & Investment NSW September 2009)

Employees new to the mining site are less familiar with work procedures, work environment, and habits of the existing workforce. Contractors engaged in high risk areas should be considered “vulnerable” and must be protected with the same vigor as their full-time counterparts. With this in mind, Kennecott Utah Copper (KUC) — one of the largest copper mines in the world — took action to improve contractor management, and by implication safety in 2010.

At the time this program began, contractor injury rates were higher than full time employees. As safety performance is correlated to solid contractor management, KUC and Kepner-Tregoe (KT) partnered to enhance the existing Contractor Management System (CMS). The current CMS outlined policies and procedures for managing contractors, including the recognized need for a well-defined scope of work. However, more precision was needed to ensure that roles and responsibilities were clear, expectations were identified, and Contract Administrators (CA) had tools to support consistent and defined scopes of work as well as safe practices specific to the contractor workforce.

To create a solid foundation for the program, KT’s robust Project Management and Issue Resolution tools were integrated into daily contractor management practices. In order to sustain improved performance, KUC and KT identified the critical elements necessary to change behaviors. These critical elements — or “building blocks” — ensure that this effort will not become a “flavor-of-the-month” training initiative.

Building Blocks:

  1. Business Process Design
  2. Business Process Performance Management
  3. Business Process Ownership

To identify the organization’s starting point, KT conducted a “current-state diagnostic review” and gathered data to identify the organization’s strength as well as areas for improvement. The diagnostic revealed that safety as the number one priority is communicated effectively to all employees. It also showed the process for managing “standard maintenance” was effective, well understood and controlled with little variance. Opportunities for improvement existed in contractor work definition and contractor management.

Areas of improvement:

  • Work scope identification
  • Robust “planning” to minimize fire fighting and risks
  • Identifying critical tasks and accountabilities
  • Consistent management procedures
  • Fast and effective measurement for monitoring work execution
  • Reduce non-value added work

At the close of the diagnostic, there was sufficient evidence to encourage agreement among KUC leaders that improving contractor performance would be beneficial to the health and well-being of all KUC employees. This effort became the “Contractor Management Improvement Program”. Work began immediately to identify and develop four tactical initiatives and two sustainability initiatives.

Tactical initiatives:

  • Small Job: work scoping and planning process
  • One Best Way: for project definition and planning
  • Perfect Shift: process for shift start-up and sand-off
  • Issue Escalation and Resolution: process for work execution

Sustainability initiatives:

Process Measurement and Management

  • Identifying appropriate measurements (including leading and lagging indicators) to measure the performance of contractor management process
  • Development of processes and tools to collect, report, and analyze performance information; provide corrective actions to deficient performance and identify future improvement opportunities
  • Development of dashboards for easy access to process performance

Determination of the optimal organization structure and appropriate job profiles

  • Identify new roles, responsibilities, skills, and requirements necessary to support the improved work scoping, planning, and execution processes
  • Documentation for who (is accountable) for what (activities) and when (during the contractor management processes)
  • Evaluation and selection of an optimal organization structure (or modifications to existing structure) to support management of roles and functions

Primary work conducted:

  • Process design and execution (with an emphasis on the ability to implement as well as the ability to transfer to other sites)
  • Leveraging best practices (internal and external to KUC)
  • Formal training on new processes (both contractor and KUC resources)
  • On the job coaching
  • Follow-up (debugging, fixing issues)
  • Development of KUC Process Leaders and Process Coaches

Through process design efforts, several tools were created to support new, easy-to-understand processes

Tools included:

  • Initial Pre-Scoping Worksheet
    – Contains a clear definition of the work expected and measures by which the work will be evaluated
  • Job/Project Scope Template
    – Identifies major work deliverables including definition of KUC supplied resources, contractor supplied resources, a safety health and environmental analysis focused on the major deliverables, and a Potential Problem Analysis Issue Escalation Tracking Form
    – Identifies key information a contractor needs to provide to KUC so that the critical issues are resolved by the appropriate people
    – Ensures issues that contribute to scope creep are identified, documented, and managed
  • Contractor Jobsite Book
    – Communicates efficiently and effectively the job scope, safety risks, and other critical information required for every contractor to “get the job done right” at KUC

KUC executive leadership asked the smelter general manager to pilot this project. Careful thought and executive level commitment by several smelter leaders laid the foundation for successful definition, planning, and implementation of the project. Changing behaviors to create positive outcomes is difficult for any organization. Sustaining a positive change requires a laser-focused passion for this program. To ensure the initial and subsequent continued success for this program, several smelter team members were dedicated to “shepherd” the project from initial planning, through implementation. After months of dedicated effort, the KUC smelter team experienced considerable success as a result of this extraordinary project.


At the conclusion of the project, contractors rate of injury dropped by 4-fold, equal to full-time workers, and continues to show stability well into the future

Improved cost performance:

  • At the conclusion of a floor repair project, a contractor asked for additional fees. A review of the Issue Escalation Tracking Form revealed no concerns, issues or problems that required additional work, were raised at any time during the project. Savings to KUC = $75,000
  • A contractor removed an agreed-upon volume of material from the east pond at KUC. This dredging project took more time than expected leading to a request for additional funds. A review of the Initial Scoping Worksheet revealed an agreement on volume — not time. Savings to KUC = $75,000
  • A dispute arose regarding damages and delays associated with a slag bunker project. A review of the Issue Escalation Tracking Form provided factual details on weather and production delays, showing 50% fewer delays than claimed by the contractor. Savings to KUC = $30,000


The journey which began in the spring of 2010 continues through 2011, with a trend of positive results at the smelter. As a result of the Contractor Management Improvement Program, KUC is looking at other areas of their operation where significant improvement can be realized. According to Clayton Walker, COO at KUC, “Zero harm and efficient and effective management of our resources are key areas of interest to KUC. We actively support many safety initiatives as we endeavor to drive KUC to a ‘Zero Harm’ organization. The Contractor Management Program is a significant example of our determination to make each day a safe one so that all employees and contractors can go home safely to their families.”


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