Towards a goal of 'Zero Harm'Central to Palabora's safety ethos is the commitment to making safety 'personal' by putting "safety at the heart of our being". Safety can only be heartfelt if each employee is acutely aware of their own and others' safety in all actions and interactions; if we ensure personal distractions are eliminated from the work context and resolve personal problems as best possible (with professional assistance if needed). Employees are encouraged to safeguard their physical health and to keep up their strength by mitigating fatigue in the workplace, avoiding short-cuts and continuously improving on their skills training.
We firmly believe that all injuries and occupational illnesses, as well as safety incidents can be prevented. As stated in Palabora's Safety and Health Policy: "All injuries and occupational illnesses are preventable".
Despite a work environment which presents inherent safety risks and hazards, we believe that our goal of "zero harm" is entirely achievable. It requires a safety mind-set, vigilant action and a genuine care for our own wellbeing as well as that of our colleagues, community and environment. It is our collective responsibility to journey safely into the future as accountable and caring individuals with keen awareness of both the positive and negative impacts of our actions.
Palabora's Safety StandardsA historical perspective
In 1987 Palabora was the first mining company to sign a Safety and Health agreement with the National Union of Mine workers. This agreement provided for the participation of workers in the safety system and includes the provision of training; attendance at safety, health and environmental control meetings; inspections by safety stewards; and other relevant involvement.
By the end of 1990's, Palabora's safety system consisted of well-entrenched safety standards, training, auditing, equipment control and contractor control. However, systems were still not achieving the ultimate goal of 'zero' injuries at work. By then Palabora had received several of the prestigious safety accolades that could be awarded. For instance, Palabora received the highest NOSA award, the "NOSCAR", for ten years in a row. Palabora was also awarded the British Safety Sword of Honour for the years 1991, 1992 and 1993 - at that stage, the only one of 30 companies in the world to receive this honour.
Palabora's Safety Standards frameworkPalabora's Safety Standards framework consists of various safety planning initiatives including a formal Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (HIRA); pre-work assessments; safety audits; safety interactions and other safety initiatives.
Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment
The Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (HIRA) procedure encourages pre-work planning before major activity starts. Before commencing any major task, the entire work team engages in careful planning and time is allocated for the team to identify any potential hazards.
In addition to the formalised HIRA process, a less formal pre-work assessment is performed named "Xiya-Xiya Hlokomela", meaning "be alert, be alert, take care". The purpose of the assessment is to help the work team in identifying hazards even for simple tasks and also to anticipate differences in procedures when change occurs.
All Palabora leaders are required to perform regular safety audits in their area of responsibility. During the safety audit process, time is taken to observe how employees perform certain tasks. Safe acts are highlighted and encouraged whilst unsafe acts are pointed out and discouraged. This is an ongoing process of coaching to eliminate unsafe acts from the workplace.
The safety interaction concept is based on a programme developed by Dupont, an international leader in chemical production, who has reduced their Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate (LTIFR) to zero in a number of their international operations.
Since initiating the programme, we have observed marked improvements in safety interactions and have observed higher levels of activity in the workplace with regards to:
- More - and also higher quality - safety interactions.
- More thorough investigations into injuries and significant incidents.
- Active participation by Health and Safety representatives in their respective SHEQ steering committee meetings.
- Increased safety campaigns around hand injuries, fire prevention, and the correct handling of lifting and rigging equipment.
Other safety initiatives
In addition to a formalised health and safety framework, the company has initiated several safety initiatives in pursuit of its goal towards 'Zero harm', including:
- A toolkit for supervisors and senior leadership explaining our basic safety system framework and providing guidance on the consistent application of on-site safety requirements.
- Improved training media to enhance employees' understanding of the safety system and to help them comply with safe practices in the workplace.
- A written guide for supervisors with constructive ideas on how to utilise their time during a shift and specifically, how to spend more quality time on safety with their teams.
- The establishment of a 'Hazard Park' aimed at honing employees' skill to recognize safety hazards in the workplace.
- The increased use of pictorial representation in our training materials to facilitate better understanding of concepts where language may be a barrier.
We expect each employee to personalise safety. This is achieved practically by encouraging the following personal behaviours among employees:
- Every employee needs to work safely and intervene where necessary and others do not.
- Leaders need to be accountable for their team's safety performance.
- Leaders need to be empowered to ensure safe working practices in their areas.
- Leaders need to demonstrate that they care.
- Leaders need to live the 'vision' of "Zero harm" and be role models.
- Leaders need to care for their employees' wellbeing.
- Leaders need to empower employees to stop work when conditions become unsafe.