Casting an eye over mine safety

Improving mining safety in South Africa is a long-standing but growing concern, and in order to truly improve safety, mine management needs to foster a culture of safety that is not only measurable, but a core component of employees’ tasks.

This is according to Tjaart Minnaar, Managing Director of OIM International, who said that although most CEO’s had made mining safety a priority, in the face of growing pressure, the urgency of the message was often diluted by the time it took to be communicated at an employee level, where the focus often shifted to output and efficiency.

“Educating workers about safety is not just a case of putting up posters and distributing hard hats. You need a culture of safety that management needs to commit to and this mind-set needs to be instilled at all levels of operation,” Minnaar said.

According to Minnaar, in order to spread this commitment to safety throughout an entire organisation, there needed to be constant structured communication around safety so that each employee could clearly see how the principles applied to their individual tasks.

“In a practical sense, this means bringing team leaders and employees together and encouraging them to analyse the safety status of their work process daily. Team leaders and employees should identify the tasks that each employee will be required to perform on a daily basis in order to meet certain objectives and outputs.”

He said through this process, each employee was continuously made aware of exactly what they should look out for and potential hazards in order to adapt their behaviour accordingly.

Minnaar also recommended that safety compliance should be made a standard part of goals and targets so that workers were incentivised to consistently measure and improve their own safety behaviour.

He said that this cycle of communication and assessment needed to be long-term and continuously exercised in order for mining houses to experience the results of improved safety and improved efficiency.

Statistics released by Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu indicated a slight drop in mining fatalities to 123 in 2011 from 127 in 2010. The statistics also revealed that 13 miners had been killed locally so far this year. — I-Net Bridge

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