Ensuring safety is at the forefront of our thinking
The nature of the work we do, as well as the remote locations and extreme conditions associated with our mining operations, means that we operate against many obstacles in the achievement of our goal of zero harm. Recognising this, we work tirelessly to ensure the safety of our people.
Regrettably, 2019 saw an increase in the number of lost-time injuries, and one tragic fatality. Our focus during 2019 was on re-emphasising the importance of the Gem Diamonds’ safety system, of adherence to that system, and the importance of undertaking prescribed actions necessary to mitigate identified risks.
Furthermore, we have implemented a ten-step focused improvement programme that includes the following:
- The first step to mitigating risks is understanding them. We have undertaken a review of our operational baseline risk assessments in each department, and emphasised the importance of mini-risk assessments before non-routine activities. We have trained employees in the “Bow-Tie method” of assessing risks, which is a user-friendly, accessible way of understanding and managing risk that empowers people to take ownership of risk assessment. We have trained employees to understand their right to refuse work they perceive as dangerous and have rolled out the PHELA initiative, bolstered by a series of industrial-theatre performances, which encourage a culture of continuous risk assessment before and during tasks, recognising that each time an assessment is performed, risks may change.
- Critical tasks are those that carry an especially significant risk of injury. These have detailed standard work procedures (SWPs) that are to be followed in every instance. We carried out a review of tasks classified as critical, adding additional tasks to the list. An intensified planned task observation campaign was rolled out, which involved closely observing tasks that are performed alongside supervisors, accompanied by a discussion of the relevant risks, safety and possible ways of improving systems. Furthermore, consequence management procedures were strengthened, further emphasising our zero-tolerance approach to procedural transgressions.
- It is only through visible, unwavering leadership that a culture of adherence and zero-compromise can be instilled amongst all employees. We have thus put in place a programme comprising multiple measures directly aimed at shoring up safety leadership. Measures include public commitments to zero tolerance by senior management; an HSE fact-finding workshop for senior management to address the negative trends in HSE performance; improvements to risk assessment processes; a continual improvement process; and many others. Furthermore, our visible felt leadership (VFL) programme encourages open engagement with employees and the discussion of minor incidents; because it is through the continuous reporting of minor incidents that a full understanding of risk transpires. We have instituted section-specific schedules for training on SWPs and devised HSE dashboards for heads of departments (HODs) and site managers.
- Our safety incident response initiative focuses on our response to our biggest risks. In 2019, there were five key risks identified: transportation; pit safety; struck-by incidents; slips and trips; and lifting operations. Each had specific new procedures instituted, with certain procedures impacting on the timing of certain operational projects. However, there has been clear direction, from Board level, that safety is our number one priority and is non-negotiable, and that delays, if they result in safer conditions, are not compromising value created.
- Lifesaving rules are processes that govern actions that carry a high risk of serious injury if procedures are not correctly followed. We have run a visual, high-visibility campaign to raise awareness and get people to take ownership of these rules. An audit to verify whether they are being complied with was conducted and confirmed a high level of compliance on site.
- Incident reporting and action management has been strengthened to focus on root causes, and to link incidents to remedial action. A root-cause investigation that does not lead to actionable, effective improvements is not sufficient. HODs now present weekly on all remedial actions taken in their department, and are visibly accountable to other HODs, general managers and the health and safety department.
- Internal verification systems to accompany and support independent audits and inspections have been strengthened. The importance of internal audits for coaching and correction have been emphasised. A more detailed and frequent audit programme, particularly as relates to high-risk areas, has been rolled out.
- Our behaviour-based care (BBC) programme has been the foundation of our safety practice for the past eight years, and organisational training on its importance has been comprehensively updated during the year. We recognise, however, that the long-term success of a programme such as this carries its own challenges; namely complacency. We realised the necessity of reinvigorating and ingraining the BBC programme in our day-to-day culture and of elevating new champions of the programme. We reinstated our “Why We-Work Safely” poster campaign, which personalises the importance of safe practices, and offered bursaries for winning posters.
- We have more robustly implemented a housekeeping programme aimed at ensuring workspaces are organised in a way that encourages efficient, effective and safe work – and identified champions to drive it.
- Lastly, we are working more closely with external medical practitioners to ensure better communication, injury management and co-ordination between doctors, HSE and sectional management.