230904 - Rising above challenges

Rising above challenges through aerial collaboration

BHP and Rio Tinto have joined forces on the innovative Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) program – focused on ensuring safety and boosting operational efficiency.

The program, initiated by BHP, offers rapid emergency medical response through the large, remote and frequently inaccessible Pilbara region.

The twin-engine BK117 aircraft, provided by Heliwest, is staffed by two helicopter pilots and a senior BHP paramedic. It is equipped with night vision capabilities and weather radar, and capable of flight under almost all-weather conditions.

BHP currently has seven staff members trained and endorsed to operate on the aircraft. The aircraft is tasked with around 110 missions annually, and BHP currently has seven staff members trained and endorsed to operate on the platform.

BHP WA Iron Ore Head of Health, Safety and Environment Justin Williams said our partnership with Rio Tinto and Heliwest played a critical role in providing rapid and lifesaving medical assistance to the Pilbara region.

“By offering swift transport of medical professionals and equipment to the scene of emergencies, HEMS significantly improves the chances of survival and reduces the risk of long-term health complications for individuals in need,” Justin said.

With Rio Tinto's involvement, the operational capacity and resources of the HEMS have been amplified, enhancing the probability of rapid medical responses not just for mining site incidents but also for emergencies within nearby local communities.

In periods of high demand or where scenes are difficult to access, various state services such as the Royal Flying Doctor Service, St John Ambulance WA, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, WA Police, Australian Maritime and Safety Authority and the State Emergency Services call upon the HEMS for help.

Rio Tinto Yandicoogina General Manager Kent Franey said: "This powerful partnership between Rio Tinto and BHP is a shining example of what can be achieved when we come together. We believe that safety should extend beyond organisational boundaries, ensuring that every individual, regardless of their employer, receives the highest level of care when they need it most. By combining our resources, we can effectively address medical emergencies, placing the safety of our employees and local communities at the forefront of our efforts. I would like to thank the HEMS team, including BHP and Heliwest, for their invaluable contribution and commitment to safety.”

The BHP HEMS team recently answered a call for patient retrieval from one of Rio Tinto’s remote sites. The rapidly deteriorating patient was stabilised upon HEMS arrival and transported to the Port Hedland Health Campus’ Emergency Department- undergoing lifesaving surgery soon after admission.

This collaboration serves as a model for the mining industry, especially those operating under challenging conditions with inherent risks. It demonstrates how organisations can come together for mutual benefit, improved safety standards, and to fulfil responsibilities towards their workforce and the wider community.

BHP and Rio Tinto are trailblazing safer working conditions, setting new standards even in the most remote and challenging environments.