Posted on: September 17, 2010 Posted by: Diane Swarts Comments: 1

Attaining zero harm in mining requires strategy, leadership, interventions, learning, investigation, excellence, and inspection, says labour union Solidarity.

These six critical success factors, of inclusive strategy, visible felt leadership, interventions, learning culture, incident investigation, quest for excellence, and inspection, each require involvement of labour unions and state inspectors, said Labour union Solidarity SH&E practitioner Leigh McMaster at the second annual Hard Rock Safety conference in 2010, themed on ‘Zero Harm’.

Communication of zero harm should be a constant theme by employers and other stakeholders. Stakeholders should believe that zero incidents are possible and that a collaborative effort would achieve this goal, McMaster said.

An extract from McMaster’s address to the hard Rock Safety conference is reproduced below.

Mining safety goals

Protection of mineworkers became a government and industry priority only after promulgation of the Mine Health and Safety Act, 29 of 1996, now in force for 13 years.

During its 13 year reign, the MHSA has been amended four times, twice by amendment acts, and twice by other legislation. The MHS Amendment Act of 1997 introduced administrative fines, strengthened in 2008.

Other amendments to the MHSA were effected through the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, 28 of 2002, and the Skills Development Amendment Act, 31 of 2003.

The duty to ensure a safe and healthy workplace to all workers, including workers at the mines is an imperative of international law, as it is a requirement of the International Labour Organisation in ILO Convention C155: OSH Convention, 1981, which was ratified by South Africa in February 2003.

It was also in the year 2003 that Industry Stakeholders came together to review the safety record of the industry which up to the end of 2002 recorded a total of 290 fatal accidents and 4461 injuries for that year.

It became clear to all involved that all stakeholders should be involved in a more concerted effort to improve the safety performance of the industry.

After much deliberation the stakeholders set out the objectives for the mining industry which became known as the 2013 milestones;

• Gold sector safety performance levels equivalent to international benchmarks for underground metalliferous mines, at the least, by 2013.

• Platinum, Coal and Other sectors ti achieve constant and continuous improvement equivalent to current international benchmarks, at the least, by 2013.
Silicosis; by December 2008, 95% of all exposure measurement results shall be below the occupational exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica of 0.1mg/m3, in individual readings, not average results.

• After December 2013, using present diagnostic techniques, no new cases of silicosis will occur among previously unexposed individuals. Previously unexposed individuals are individuals unexposed prior to 208, that is, equivalent to a new person entering the industry in 2008.

•    Noise-Induced Hearing Loss: present noise exposure limit stated in the MHSA regulations is no more than 85dBL. After December 2008, the hearing conservation programme implemented by the industry must ensure that there is no deterioration in hearing greater than 10% amongst occupationally exposed individuals.

• By December 2013, the total noise emitted by all equipment installed in any
workplace must not exceed a sound pressure level of 110 dB(A) at any location
in that workplace (including individual pieces of equipment).

It is unfortunate that in 2009 the industry had seen several fatal incidents, calling for a step change.

Some initiatives and forums have been created to facilitate the process of developing and implementing the correct strategies for mining.

Mining forums and initiatives

Mine Health and Safety Act and Regulations under the Minerals Act sets out the responsibility that certain individuals have with regard to Health and Safety. The
CEO of a company together with several individuals in line management has legal responsibilities to ensure the safety at their operations.

There are also bodies such the Mine H&S Committee that together with Safety Officers and Safety representatives have the duty to monitor compliance and system effectiveness.

One of the central themes and objectives of the MHSA is the creation of an environment where the industry stakeholders can engage one another for the purpose of finding joint solutions for industry health and safety challenges.

This objective has encouraged a number of industry forums to be created to address specific concerns such as Fall of Ground Management, the elimination of dust and the reduction of noise emissions in the workplace.

Employee behaviour and Stakeholder communication are also areas that have received much attention in recent years.

The aim of these industry forums is to complement the work of legislated bodies such as the Mine Health and Safety Council and provide a platform for stakeholder input into strategy and policy development on Health and Safety.

Current forums and task teams on industry level include:

* MOSH task team which is tasked with the investigation of best practice in the industry but also outside the industry where applicable. The MOSH adoption team has created a number of COPA’s (community of practice adoption) which seeks to promote eager adoption of best practice amongst mines. The current COPA’s are focusing on Fall of Ground Management, Dust Control, Noise Induced Hearing Loss, Transport and Machinery.

* Regional Tripartite Health and Safety Forums. These forums are important platforms for stakeholders to meet on a regular basis to discuss matters of importance in a specific region. The benchmark forum is currently the forum operating in the North West Province. This forum has managed to constructively come up with solutions for several problems experienced by the Platinum producers in the region.

Some companies have also been proactive in establishing National Health and
Safety forums on Exco level where Top Management of the specific company meet with leadership of the DMR and organized labour to address company specific issues.

Terms of reference for these types of forums are typically;
• Determining long term H&S strategy
• Fostering adoption of a pro-active preventative approach
• Informing adoption teams of Chamber of Mines
• Informing research agenda of the MHS Council
• Support other legislative structures such as the Mine H&S committees to be effective and relevant in achieving their objectives
• Create a platform for stakeholders to engage on a regular basis to have open discussion on any health and safety matters
• Share information with other health and safety structures as appropriate. Leaders in this regard have been Anglo American and Anglo Gold Ashanti.

Mining employers roles

Employers have a number of duties with regard to Mine Health and Safety that can be found under the Mine Health and Safety Act, Regulations under the Minerals Act that have been incorporated under the MHSA as well as the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act.

The Chamber of Mines is the primary employer’s organization in the industry and has taken responsibility for a number of challenges faced by the industry.

The Chamber has also been instrumental in creating groundbreaking initiatives such as the COPAs and adoption teams under MOSH as well as the creation of the Learning Hub that will be responsible amongst other things for transforming the industries culture in terms of learning and information sharing.

Mining employee roles

Apart from the legislative duties that employees and organized labour has there is a number of other important roles that unions can play in the industry.

As representatives of the workforce, unions stand in a trust relationship with employees that in turn create opportunities on several areas to have a unique influence and impact.

It is essential that organised labour take responsibility and leadership in participating and providing input into all industry initiatives. Unions should also facilitate information flow between industry level and employees and structures at mine level.

Unions have to play a central role in the biggest challenge we are facing on H&S; human behaviour.

Here is also unique opportunity for union officials and representatives to interact with employees and generate useful information on dealing with the human psyche, the needs and wants of employees at work.

Role of the Mine Health and Safety Inspectorate of the Department of Mineral
Resources (DMR)

DMR inspectors, as one of the tripartite institutions and as the party responsible to oversee the state of health and safety in mines, one of the key role players provided for in the MHSA.

This Inspectorate has been established by the MHSA to provide;

• policy inputs for the establishment and application of mine safety standards at mining operations and promote their application

• policy inputs for the establishment and application of mine equipment safety standards at mining operations and promote their application

• policy inputs for the establishment and application of mine health standards at mining operations and promote their application

• effective support and inspection service.

The main strategic objective of the inspectorate is to improve occupational health and safety in mines through;

• national policy, legislation and systems to regulate, monitor, audit and inspect mines

• contributing to the development of qualifications, skills programmes and learnerships in the mining industry

• technical advice.

Inputs provided by the Inspectorate serve as the source for Codes of Practice to be prepared and implemented by employers and which also serve as a standard for health and safety in the mines.

From the above it is clear that the Inspectorate has an important role to play regarding the provision of information, inputs and guidance regarding health and safety and to police compliance with the MHSA.

Unfortunately, in practice, the Inspectorate mostly seen in the policing role and is less involved in the provision of information, inputs and guidance regarding health and safety.

In accordance with the dual meaning of “compliance”, the MHSA have through the years unfortunately become the only standard to which employers evaluate the health and safety requirements and their performance in this regard.

Thus, a culture of “legal compliance” has been entrenched in the industry, i.e. a culture of “abiding by and being submissive to” the legal requirements and being “passive” with regard to anything else not required by the MHSA.

Mining focus 2010 to 2013

It is clear from the present statistics that the mining industry will not achieve the 2013 milestones without a change in strategy. The bulk of the work that is done by stakeholders on industry level focus on systems management and addressing hazards and unsafe conditions in the workplace.

It is however clear from thousands of investigations and research that human error plays a role in the majority of incidents. Ultimately many system failures lead to certain behaviour by employees but it is essential that more human behaviour interventions take place in order to correct unsafe actions by employees. It is important that the industry therefore focus on the following areas.

Leadership commitment

Stakeholders should be committed to achieving the declared goal of zero harm. It is therefore essential that leadership find ways in which to communicate to each other on a frequent basis.

Open and honest dialogue should be encouraged at all times. Stakeholders should find innovative ways in which to involve all stakeholders in company events and decisions.

Initiatives and programmes should be jointly developed by stakeholders in order to generate visible and unconditional support by all. Stakeholders should state their objectives clearly and on a constant basis.

H&S should also be the central theme of every aspect of business and should be the first consideration in every decision taken.

Employee accountability

Employees at all levels of the organization should take responsibility for health and safety. A prerequisite for taking responsibility is to be involved and to have input into the decisions made by management and superiors.

Organisational culture should promote two-way communication between managers and their subordinates. The mining industry has traditionally been a very autocratic environment.

Companies that have made a change in their communicating strategy by generating more input from workers have seen a remarkable improvement in the commitment of their employees. Having input into the business creates a sense of ownership of the organizational objectives.

Expectation of zero incidents

Communication of zero harm should be a constant theme by the company and by other stakeholders. Stakeholders should believe that zero incidents are possible and that a collaborative effort would achieve this goal.

Auditing for improvement

To ensure continuous adherence to health and safety standards, it is important that employers implement health and safety management systems and policies. However, implementation is only one part of the process.

Regular auditing of the employers’ health and safety management systems and policies is crucial to ensuring health and safety at the workplace.

OHSAS 18001

The global standard for an OHS management system, although not officially incorporated into the MHSA, OHSAS 18001 is generally accepted and applied as the standard or best practice in the mining industry for occupational health and safety management systems, which include auditing of compliance with health and safety prescripts.

OHSAS 18001 gives the requirements for an occupational health and safety management system as well as the framework to audit employers’ existing health and safety policies and procedures.

OHSAS 18001 was developed by a number of the world’s leading national standards bodies, certification bodies, and specialist consultancies. A main driver for the development of this standard was to attempt to eliminate remove confusion in the workplace caused by and abundance of different so-called OHS standards.

OHSAS 18001 has been developed to be compatible with the ISO 9001 (quality) and ISO 14001 (environmental) management system standards, in order to facilitate the integration of quality, environmental and occupational health and safety management systems by organisations, should they wish to do so.

The audit process requires clearly defined roles, responsibilities and accountability of personnel who manage, perform and verify activities that have a direct impact or effect on the occupational health and safety risks within the organisation. It is essential that all companies obtain OHSAS 18001 certification.

Visible Felt Leadership

Apart from the formal auditing tools, there is an informal, yet important tool to assist with the auditing of the employers’ health and safety management systems, to wit, Visible Felt Leadership (VFL).

VFL is the process through which leaders move all employees to action in the realisation that each person in the company, from the CEO to the last worker, is responsible for his/her own safety and well being and that they are also interdependent for the safety and well being of each other.

VFL is applied through:

* Observing employee’s behavior at work and identifying behavior that could lead to loss or injury and to encourage desired safety outcomes in order to show to employees that leadership cares for them.

* Analysing and observing the workplace conditions and the employee interaction with it, being safe or risky

Communicating concerns for at-risk behaviors to employees and also praising safe behavior.

Helping to remove barriers that prevent employees from working safely.

Principles of Felt Leadership

DuPont uses 10 felt leadership principles to guide our training and consulting
clients on their path to felt leadership and safety greatness:

• Visible to the organisation.
• Relentless about time with people.
• Recognise your role as teacher/trainer.
• Develop your own safety functioning skills and pass them along to the organization.
• Behave and lead as you desire others to do.
• Maintain a self-safety focus.
• Confirm and reconfirm safety as the #1 value.
• Place continuous emphasis and clarity around safety expectations.
• Show a passion for ZERO injuries, illnesses, and incidents.
• Celebrate and recognize ZERO successes.

Mining safety mottoes

Various major employers in the mining industry have formulated their respective visions regarding health and safety, such as:

Goldfields; ‘If We Cannot Mine Safely, We Will Not Mine’

Anglo Gold Ashanti; ‘Safety Is Our First Value.”

Harmony; ‘Safety Is Our Target” and “Safety Is Our Number 1 Priority’

Anglo American; ‘Safety Is a Core Value of Anglo American and Remains Our
First Priority’

Exxaro: ‘Safety Always, All the way’

Xstrata; ‘Our Primary Objective Is to Operate with No Fatalities or Injuries and We Believe that Every Work-related Illness and Injury is Preventable’

Lonmin; ‘We Are Committed to Honouring Our Safety Values and Sustaining an
Environment that Promotes the Safety of our Employees and Contractors’

This increasing cooperation between employers, organised labour and the DMR is a very positive trend and has assisted mining houses tremendously in their quest to achieving their respective visions regarding health and safety.

Zero Harm critical success factors

Establishment of organizational tri-partite health & safety forums to discuss organisational strategy and formulate policy on H&S.

Implementation of leading practice VFL models. The implementation should be done inclusive of all stakeholders.

Stakeholders in the mining industry should participate and provide input into industry initiatives such as MOSH and the various COPA’s.

Creation of a learning culture in the industry.

Incidents should be approached with more transparency in order to generate value from lessons learned.

Stakeholders should strive for excellence in Health and Safety. Leading practice must continuously become the minimum requirement.

Experience and knowledge of unions and the inspectorate should be harnessed and used to strengthen organizational and industry objectives.

•    Leigh McMaster is SHE practitioner at Solidarity. He previously was with a retailer as HR and development officer, and three years in OHS. He is a member of numerous industry and organisational initiatives and task teams on H&S.

PHOTO; Labour union Solidarity SH&E practitioner, Leigh McMaster.

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