Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mine/Resource industry crisis preparedness

The mining resources industry has its fair share of risk. Some of the most sophisticated crisis management planning has been put in place by global mining and resource companies. Mining crisis management is tested, validated and integrated with emergency planning more than in most other industries. But the tragic loss of life in the mining industry continues as we saw in the recent Welsh colliery mining disaster, where the hunt for the miners ended with the news that all four miners were found dead. The tragedy played out typically through extensive live television, radio and press coverage, social media commentary and emotional family and community involvement throughout the escalation of the event.

In April 2010 in West Virginia, 29 miners were killed 1000 feet underground in the worst mining disaster in the US in 40 years. Thirty three Chilean miners were trapped in August last year in a massive cave-in. In this crisis, the miners were rescued in what was an outstanding example of rescue skills, crisis management planning and recovery. The miners were rescued after 69 days at 2,300 feet (700 m.) underground.

Currently, there is a Royal Commission of Inquiry into New Zealand's recent mine disaster in Pike River that killed 29 people. The Inquiry will examine and report on the causes of the explosions at the mine and subsequent loss of life, and all aspects of the safety regulatory regime and rescue operations at the mine.

Accidents will continue to happen. What resource companies and mining management must do is to shore up their strategic crisis management plans to link with emergency management plans, i.e.

* Be ready to make rapid strategic decisions as well as tactical response at site.
* Localise the response, while maximising corporate and strategic assistance.
* Create a tailor made plan around uniform standards.
* Train and validate plans with large simulations and training exercises.
* Start planning for recovery before a crisis occurs.
* Test critical information systems for sharing response actions.

What fundamentally distinguishes crisis-prepared from crisis-prone resource and mining organisations is their overall cultural view of crisis preparedness.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Product sabotage and social media

Criminal contamination is a crisis and this was never more obvious than the recent Nurofen product tampering in the UK.

One of the more popular painkillers, Nurofen Plus was criminally replaced with an anti-psychotic drug. Purchasers of the over-the-counter painkiller faced the serious situation that some packs contained a prescription only drug used to treat conditions such as schizophrenia instead of a simple headache. Reckitt Benckiser (UK) Limited recalled Nurofen Plus, reporting that sabotage was suspected. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) worked with the company and the Metropolitan Police to investigate.

Initially there seemed to be very little information regarding the recall provided on the Nurofen website or on the Facebook page. Some detail came in a basic statement on the website about ten hours later. Twitter identified public concern was being expressed by the consumer.

Being ready to respond to an escalating crisis via the web is as important as responding on radio and television and in the press. Utilising websites and social media will help control the high ground in an emerging or escalating critical product incident or product recall. This rapid communication tool can correct rumour and innuendo and protect the consumer, retain market share and manage the crisis.

It's almost 30 years since two mothers, two sisters, a bride, a 12 year old schoolgirl and a stewardess all took Extra Strength Tylenol and died from cyanide poisoning. This landmark case was managed very well by Johnson & Johnson, who developed a new tamper-proof package and worked with the FDA and the FBI to take control and virtually save their brand. The social media phenomena was not around then but maybe Johnson & Johnson would have used this tool to waylay fear and apprehension and communicate their product recovery. It is still in its early days for many drug companies and manufacturers.