UTS Library

Alcan Gove Health Awareness Program


Alcan Gove

PR Company: 

Award Category: 

Award Type: 

Call Number: 

2007 C7 - 4



Executive Summary: 

Alcan Gove bauxite mine and alumina refinery is situated on the Gove Peninsula in the Northern Territory. Over the past few years its workforce has increased from 1,100 to 2,800 due to its refinery expansion known as the ‘G3 project'.

There had been a number of potentially avoidable health related incidents which could have been mitigated with increased knowledge of health hazards. Some of these incidents had also been the subject of highly charged union claims and media reports.
Alcan Gove required an awareness initiative to inform employees of the health hazards associated with living and working on a remote and fully operational refinery in the Australian tropics.
Alcan Gove and Rowland partnered to develop and implement a comprehensive internal communication program to increase awareness of health hazards and preventative measures.

The program drew on a review of research into internal culture, communication materials on health hazards and a workshop onsite at Gove.

A positioning was developed to underpin all communication - it positioned the program as a key management initiative, incorporating Alcan's global EHS FIRST management system.

The health hazards program resulted in improved employee perceptions and increased awareness of the potential risks and hazards in an industrial environment.

Word count 200 words

Situation Analysis: 

The need for an internal communication strategy was identified following a number of potentially avoidable health incidents (such as heat related conditions and hydration) that could have been mitigated with increased knowledge of health hazards on site.

Additionally some incidents had been the subject of highly charged union claims and media reports. These incidents could have been better managed with timely, open and accurate communication on each of the hazards.

Issues identified via an onsite workshop, previous staff surveys and a review of existing communication responses on health hazards included:

  • Perceptions management focused on production and safety, rather than health
  • Many of the G3 employees had never worked on a site such as this
  • High levels of concern about health hazards raised by employees and unions
  • Beliefs information was not always flowing from the 'shop floor' up to management
  • Employee concerns that in some cases there was a lack of personal accountability and responsibility within the workforce.
  • Challenges in disseminating information to all employees.

A communication strategy to increase employees’ understanding of risks could assist employees in identifying potential hazards and taking preventative action.


Informal ‘walk-abouts’ and discussion with employees
  • Understand internal culture
  • Gain informal feedback from all employees  (Alcan Gove, contractors and G3)
Existing communication materials on health hazards
  • Understand key messages and current communication channels
  • Identify any missing links in channels
Workshop with key members of Alcan Gove and G3’s Management, EHS and Communication teams
  • Further understanding of internal culture, and what has and hasn’t worked previously
  • Identify communication opportunities and learnings from recent issues
Media Coverage
  • Identify key issues raised in the media
Previous employee surveys
  • Understand internal culture
  • Gain feedback from employees

Target Policies: 

Importance of relationship
Alcan Gove employees and contractors and their families As primary target must be convinced Alcan Gove is taking action to protect their health and well-being
Alcan Gove Site Leadership Team, area managers and supervisors Require their commitment to full and open disclosure, and ongoing two-way communication
G3 Management Team and Constructor Management Groups
Alcan Gove and G3 EHS managers, advisors and representatives
Alcan Inc management team Opportunity for Alcan Gove to demonstrate proactive approach to EHS FIRST – key plank of global operations
Alcan Bauxite & Alumina Executive Committee
Alcan Bauxite & Alumina Executive Communication Manager Oversees and approves all communication activity
Union delegates Must be informed and involved to counteract public criticism about health and safety onsite
Media Can be equipped with positive information to counteract negative claims about health and safety onsite
Nhulunbuy and Galupa community Sense of engagement. Shows Alcan is genuinely concerned about health and wellbeing of employees and community
Potential employees Require assurance Alcan Gove is a safe place to work

Communication Strategy: 

Objective 1
Increase workforce awareness in order to take preventative action

Strategic Approach

Clearly communicate practical, tangible actions everyone can take to manage health hazards

Every employee plays a role in ensuring their own health and safety as well as their workmates

Creates personal responsibility and accountability for health hazard management

Tap into existing modes of communication

Presenting messages within context of every day operations normalises health hazards and makes it part of daily behaviour

Develop factual and appropriate communication materials

Understanding key triggers of workforce creates meaningful and memorable messages

Accurate and unbiased information normalises health hazards

Objective 2
Create an open, transparent communication process

Strategic Approach
Communicate management’s actions to proactively manage hazards Creates some early ‘wins’

Demonstrates management’s focus on valuing employees and ability to deliver on promises and close the communication loop

Implement and promote ‘full circle’ feedback mechanisms Sends a clear message that the mechanisms work, management is listening, and feedback and concerns are taken seriously
Promote support of both site and construction workforces Every employee plays a role, whether they are an Alcan Gove employee, contractor or member of G3 construction workforce

Objective 3
Develop clearly defined issues management response

Strategic Approach

Full and open disclosure of information on issues

Demonstrates management’s focus on valuing employees and ability to deliver on promises and close the communication loop

Efficiently and effectively manage responses to any issues

Timely and accurate communication helps to normalise issues

Ensure consistent and relevant corporate messages

Helps to normalise issues

Ensure key people understood their respective roles and responsibilities

Equips management to communicate with and report back to employees effectively on issues


The communication strategy was developed and implemented in the following phases:

Foundation phase (October - November 2005)

  • Workshop with key Alcan and G3 team members to develop communication strategy. It was identified that it must be a visible strategy that is visually appealing and everyone understands
  • Developed clear positioning and key messages
  • Established two-way feedback mechanisms to ensure information filtered back to management
  • Developed response package - site notice template; media release; speaking points and Powerpoints for briefings such as Toolbox presentations (regular team meetings); feedback forms; protocol for reporting hazards through line management
  • Developed information kit for employees -packaged in an A5 durable plastic folder branded with program 'Health = Awareness + Attitude + Action' and sized to fit in employee daypacks. Kits contained branded pen; first series of fact sheets; feedback forms; protocol for reporting hazards; and a campaign sticker
  • Developed fact sheet to be used during recruitment Briefed and trained subject matter specialists enabling them to confidently explain issues.

Launch phase (December 2005)

  • Formally launched program using hydration as the 'hero' campaign, via a series of toolbox meetings, EHS meetings, site notices and a media release
  • As part of the hydration launch:  

- Urine charts developed and posted in toilets. One slogan used on a urine chart raising awareness about dehydration was “If it looks like beer, oh dear!"

- Specific hydration poster developed ("Hit the bottle'?.

  • Other activities undertaken:

- Information kits

- Feedback form introduced

- Fact sheets displayed in key areas

- Call to action posters and stickers

- Distribution of media release (community update) distributed to local media to explain to the community positive steps being taken to protect employees and the community. Use media release as a basis for responding to reactive media enquiries on health and safety.

Development of issues management response (September -December 2005)

  • Developed process for managing issues internally (included list of trigger points,
    risk assessment tools, flow charts)
  • Reviewed existing EHS meetings (to evaluate process and ensure continued information sharing)
  • Developed information briefs for management on potential issues incorporating
    background, key messages and Q&A’s.

Ongoing communication activities (December 2005 - onwards)

  • The campaign continued to be implemented by Alcan Gove over the following months
  • FAQs regularly updated
  • Information was incorporated in induction process.

Fact sheets

Every fact sheet was designed to provide simple and accurate information as well as tangible actions. Fact sheets included the following sections:

  • Background on the health hazard
  • How it might affect you
  • Treatment
  • Prevention
  • What is Alcan Gove doing?
  • What can you do?
  • Contact information.
  • Fact sheets developed to date include:
  • Avoiding heat related conditions
  • Stack emissions
  • Non-condensable gases and volatile organic compounds
  • Process liquor
  • Alcohol
  • Prescription medication and other drugs
  • Avian influenza
  • Materials containing asbestos
  • Noise and hearing protection
  • Synthetic mineral fibres
  • Skin care in the tropics
  • Manual handling
  • Cooling towers -Legionella
  • Drinking water
  • Welding fumes.


The health hazards campaign was considered by Alcan Gove as highly successful in achieving the goal of improving employee health, well-being and safety by increasing awareness of health hazards.

Anecdotal feedback indicated employees appreciated Alcan Gove's open and honest approach to communication on these issues, resulting in increased understanding of potential health hazards.

Employees also indicated they felt their concerns and questions were being heard and answered by management via the formal feedback mechanisms and also via face-to-face dialogue with subject matter specialists in toolbox and EHS meetings.

The program was supported 100% by key management. Alcan Gove has shown continued support in the program by developing and distributing ongoing fact sheets and communicating on other health hazards as they have arisen.

Alcan Gove considered the program such a success they have since indicated support for developing two similar campaigns focused on environment, and safety.



Increased workforce awareness

  • Increase in understanding of potential health hazards (measured via anecdotal feedback and feedback forms).

Open, transparent communication process

  • 100% involvement of key management

  • Widespread and ongoing use of feedback mechanisms (measured through use of feedback forms)

  • Acknowledgement of management’s commitment to the campaign (measured via anecdotal feedback).

Clearly defined issues management response

  • Widespread use of issues management protocols
  • 100% use of company key messages in all response material

Due to the commercially sensitive and personal nature of health hazards information, Alcan Gove is not able to provide details or figures indicating levels of health hazards reported, either before or after the campaign. However, as indicated elsewhere the campaign success was supported by anecdotal evidence.

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