A healthy community means healthy families, which means a more safe and motivated workforce; thus there is a direct link between community health and the productivity of a mining or refining operation. In turn, the values of occupational health and safety at the heart of mining and refining operations are taken out by the workforce in to their homes and communities, fostering a culture of safety that, for instance, sees people wearing seatbelts in vehicles where their use is not mandated.
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Locally specific actions to improve the health of communities are conducted by miners and refiners around the globe.
Based on an assessment of community and occupational health needs, companies implement programmes that can include:
- Nutrition & weight management
- Smoking cessation
- Stress management
- Cholesterol management
- Diabetes education
- Vaccination & immunizations
- Heart health
- Depression screening
- Work-life balance initiatives
- Sexual health
- Vector-borne disease control
- Drugs & alcohol programmes
- Sanitation infrastructure & programmes
While the main risks in bauxite mining and alumina refining are in general common across the mining and manufacturing sector – mobile equipment, working at heights and in confined spaces, electrical safety, etc. – community health risks and opportunities for improving wellness are quite specific to the location. Actions to mitigate such risks or take advantage of the opportunities also need to be handled with sensitivity to the cultural context aswell. Therefore, operators work very closely with communities in defining health needs and appropriate actions, regularly measure performance and revisit objectives in consultation with stakeholders.
As well as developing specific community health programmes, operators invest in the building of healthcare infrastructure in areas where often there is little or no formal capacity for meeting the medical needs of workers, their families and communities, during the life of a mine or refinery and even after closure. These can include hospitals, clinics, health education resources, emergency response personnel and equipment, doctors, nurses and hygienists.