Improving Behavior

SustainableSustainable development also applies to how Borax inter­acts with its employees. Borax is focusing on creating a safer work force by promoting safe behaviors among employees. Chiaro notes that while the company historically has had a good safety record, last year it had 17 lost time injuries, with only one so far this year. He believes this is due to its focus on behavior, although the company’s ultimate goal is to have no injuries.

“We have spent a lot of money on eliminating unsafe conditions, so now we are putting a big focus on practicing safe behaviors,” Chiaro says.

The company began its concentration on behavior by requiring all executives to conduct safety talks in the work place on a weekly basis. In the effort to reach more people, this requirement expanded to all salaried employees. These employees at every facility go into the field and speak to at least one other worker about safety issues each week.

In addition to these practices, every meeting throughout the entire company starts with a discussion of safety issues, be they in the work place, on the road or at home.

“We want our employees to be safe everywhere,” Chiaro says. “We are developing better systems to track these safe behaviors and correct those that are unsafe. We have high safety and occupational health standards in all of our businesses, and these high standards apply everywhere.”

Chiaro is proud of the company’s success in this area. He notes that Borax has a long-standing and successful relationship with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which was instrumental in recently reaching an “unprecedented” five-year contract at one of the company’s sites. He believes the foundation is the company’s strong relationships with its hourly workers.

“Because defining what drives value is as important as what drives costs, Borax launched a performance management process last year and is currently rolling it out to each of our 1,500 employees,” Peever says. “Performance management is a system that clearly defines how individual efforts link to collective results. In short, it’s a system that not only measures excellence, but one that recognizes and rewards it. … Business development is another key value driver. Programs are geared to generate new ideas, develop those ideas with industry partners to capture market share, and promote increased intensity of use for borates. Innovation has been critical to Borax raising its internal standards.”

“Mining is tough,” Chiaro says. “Without the ore body we have no business, but an equally important resource is our people. We need good talent to have a good company. Part of the package is serving and supporting them.”