People before profit, Vale CEO Murilo Ferreira says – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – July 13, 2011)

The Sudbury Star, the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper. cmulligan@thesudburystar.com

“I want to make it undoubtedly clear that safety comes before production at this company. People are always more important than any results or material goods. … If you see a risky situation or unsafe behaviour, it is your duty to intervene.”
(Vale CEO Murilo Ferreira – July 13, 2011)

Editor’s note: The names of Jordan Fram and Jason Chenier are incorrect in today’s print edition of The Sudbury Star. We apologize to the families and to our readers for the error.

Safety comes before production and people are more important than profit, Vale’s chief executive officer Murilo Ferreira told his company’s 119,000 employees Tuesday. The comments came in a statement from Ferreira issued after eight Vale employees were killed in six accidents in the last three months.

Ferreira sent the letter to Vale employees on five continents, reminding them that mining can be dangerous and involves risk, but that safety is sacrosanct for the Brazil-based company. Two Sudbury miners, Jason Chenier, 35, and Jordan Fram, 26, died June 8 on the 3,000-foot level of Stobie Mine after a load of crushed ore fell on them.

That accident is under investigation by the Ministry of Labour, Vale and United Steelworkers Local 6500, the union to which the men belonged.

Ferreira said he is “terribly upset when I think of these lost lives and the pain that must be felt by these families.”

Vale’s accident rate is below average in the mining sector, said Ferreira, but that is no cause to celebrate.

“Because behind the accident statistics, people’s lives are forever changed and everyone around them is affected: their families, friends and colleagues,” he said in the email.

The CEO of the Brazil-based mining giant reminded employees around the world that Vale’s first concern is “prioritizing life and safety,” which is one of the company’s seven corporate values, said Angie Robson, Vale spokeswoman in Sudbury.

That value is “sacred,” said Ferreira in his e-mail. “I want to make it undoubtedly clear that safety comes before production at this company. People are always more important than any results or material goods.”

The CEO urged employees to take care of themselves on the job, but to also pay attention to their colleagues around them.

“If you see a risky situation or unsafe behaviour, it is your duty to intervene. And I do hope that this ‘Prioritizing Life and Safety’ value goes beyond the limits of the company to influence your family and community life,” he wrote.

Vale called upon the “leaders” of its company to speak with workers July 12 about health and safety.

He urged employees to “participate in this opportunity to reflect.

“And above all, let us work every day with zero tolerance to accidents,” said Ferreira. “I’m counting on you.”

Robson said the eight fatalities were among both employees and contractors employed by Vale around the world. One accident occurred in Colombia, three in Brazil and one in Guinea, in addition to the Sudbury deaths, said Robson.

As well as 119,000 employees, Vale employs 54,000 contract employees.

Robson said discussions occurred Tuesday at Vale’s Sudbury operations, which were “especially relevant given the recent deaths of Jason Chenier and Jordan Fram.

“And, as you can imagine, (they were) emotional in many instances. Our employees at all levels continue to be deeply affected by their loss,” said Robson of the two Sudbury miners.

Rick Bertrand, president of USW Local 6500, said his membership’s “heartfelt condolences” went out to families around the world who have experienced losses like those suffered in Sudbury recently.

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