Best Mining Story: ‘Safety Share’ from a long-time Fort Knox employee

John Gentry, Health and Safety Superintendent, Fort Knox, and 2015 Gold LOVA award winner for Putting People First, has been working at Fort Knox for almost 20 years. He reflects on how the safety culture has changed and become deeply engrained in day-to-day work at the mine.

“Safety is about work and family, but it is also about friends. I’ve been at Fort Knox now for almost 20 years and a large percentage of people I work with I also look at as friends. For me, safety really boils down to one number – zero fatalities. The other aspects we track are also very important, but this measurement is what drives me every day. Whether it is at Fort Knox or any other mine site, the top priority should always be to return employees safe to their families – cutting corners is just not worth it.

Throughout the years I’ve seen the safety culture continually change in a positive direction at Fort Knox. Our safety culture is not only engrained with people that have been here for a while, but also quickly becomes habit for new employees coming in as it is naturally absorbed.

I have found that the most important and effective way of reinforcing this safety culture is by taking the extra couple of minutes to tell folks when they are doing the right thing. The response is usually shock and surprise followed by a wave of pride that comes across their faces. Not long ago I came across an employee that was taking the time to clean off the headlights of their vehicle after travelling on a very muddy road.  I approached the person and let them know their actions where noticed and appreciated- they were not only thinking of their safety, but the safety of the next person that might use the same vehicle. A few days later I overheard the same person having a similar conversation with another employee about the importance of visibility while driving. Seeing this further solidified my conclusion that positive reinforcement makes a long-lasting impression on people.

What really brings it full circle for me is when I hear conversations in town along the lines of ‘if you are headed to Fort Knox you better take your safety gear with you or you won’t get in.’ I think there are a lot of folks that when they hear ‘Fort Knox’, that’s what they think right away. It’s a real testament to how seriously we take safety at Fort Knox and Kinross as a whole.”

John Gentry, Health and Safety Superintendent, Fort Knox

John at work