As a company, we strive to continuously improve our health and safety performance and to ensure that our people leave work in a safe and healthy manner every day. We will achieve this through a deeply-ingrained safety culture, backed up by effective systems and processes, with managers at all levels of the business leading by example.
The impact of change on the psychological wellbeing of the mining industry workforce, triggering fear, uncertainty, insecurity, stress, disarray and isolation, has never been more evident as during the past Year. As a major part of a workplace safety culture lives in the hearts and minds of the workforce, safety performance for both Petra and the South African mining industry as a whole was significantly impacted during the past year.
During this period, our workforce was hit by the ‘perfect storm’ of difficult conditions to contend with, namely:
Each of the factors noted above impacted upon the psychological wellbeing of our staff, which is considered to have had significant implications for the negative behavioural safety trends – triggering lack of attention, absentmindedness, and inattention.
In South Africa, mining operations countrywide ramped up over the period September 2020 (after the Covid-19 hard lockdown) until the end of June 2021. During this 11-month period, the Minerals Council SA’s safety performance statistics deteriorated significantly on a constant trend – with fatal accidents tragically increasing 58% to 63 (11 months to June 2020: 40) and reportable injuries increasing 53% to 1,773 (11 months to June 2020: 1,158).
This is in contrast to the previous five-year period, during which the industry had showed a constant improvement on fatalities and reportable injuries. When considering the reasons for this decline in safety performance, many of the aforementioned national, socio, economic and political factors have been reoccurring in South African history over four year cycles for at least the past 20+ years. The only new factor over the past five years was the outbreak of COVID-19. It is thus believed that the combination of all the recurrent factors, plus the pandemic, resulted in the industry safety performance slump.
Given this, Petra’s achievement of four years fatality free this Year is commendable.
LTIs, however, increased by 32% during FY 2021, after a nine-year continual reduction trend, with the number of LTIs decreasing 77% over this timeframe. The recorded LTIs during the Year had a low severity rate, mostly caused by unsafe behaviour resulting in foot, ankle and hand injuries sustained during material handling activities, driving TMM and walking.
We strive to continuously improve our health and safety performance and to ensure that our people leave work in a safe and healthy manner every day.
We intervened by reviewing our HSEQ management system tools, improving our HSE start of shift process, focusing on more effective communication which includes HSE Toolbox Talks, sharing of learnings from incidents and accidents internally and externally reported through the Minerals Council SA and introducing leading indicator assessment tools to intervene proactively prior to unwanted event occurrences.
The main focus is on health and safety behavioural initiatives reaching the hearts and minds of our employees and contractors. Examples of how we do this include our HSE campaigns, Management walkabouts, visible felt leadership sessions, Stop for Safety interventions, CEO roadshows, HSEQ Steering Committee and HSE Leads Peer review processes.
Where COVID-19 prevented face-to-face communication, virtual conversations and presentations were held. These aim at strengthening our deeply ingrained safety culture, which is backed up by effective systems and processes, with Managers at all levels of the business encouraged to lead by example.
Petra’s Festive Season campaign “HSE Starts With Me” was launched during Richard Duffy’s annual CEO Roadshow in October 2019. The campaign was a health and safety behaviour focused initiative developed by the Group HSEQ Department and supported the Minerals Council SA’s annual nationwide campaign “Khumbul’ekhaya” (the Nguni word for “remember home”). Each operation implemented their “HSE Starts with Me Campaign” and aligned actions, schedules and interventions to mine specific requirements to gain the most from the initiative.
“HSE Starts With Me” was based on four key principles: zero harm is an aspiration, not a goal, driven by continual improvement; the Company will apply a holistic approach to eliminate health and safety related incidents, accidents and environmental impacts; remembering home, staying healthy and safe because someone at home is waiting for you, and caring for the environment so our children may prosper.
At the Finsch mine, the majority of accidents in FY 2020 were found to be behavioural in nature and of low severity. As part of an initiative to change these behaviours, in November 2019 the mine launched its own campaign – “Stop for Safety”, in conjunction with the “HSE Starts With Me” campaign. It focused on raising awareness and addressing a number of issues including fatigue, drug and alcohol testing, supervision during overtime worked, lack of focus, avoiding taking shortcuts, production incentives and consequence management.
The campaign was officially launched by Finsch’s General Manager, Notokozo Ngema, and during the campaign, he and the mine’s management team visited areas in the plant and underground to engage directly with workers on health and safety issues. A great emphasis was placed on raising awareness and all employees were encouraged to re-focus and address any complacency in their behaviours.