Corporate Social Responsibility within the mining sector comes with a number of important needs for employees and for the community that exists within that area. Kumba Iron Ore believes that they may have the best responsibility and safety practices in South Africa to help respond to these needs in the sector.
To help mark World Day for Safety and Health at Work for Anglo American’s iron ore business unit, Kumba Iron Ore, has accomplished a significant milestone in their work: it has been 1083 days since the company’s last fatal accident.
Back in 2016, Kumba’s Chief Executive Officer Themba Mkhwanazi launched a “sacred covenant code” and declared that not one more person would lose their lives while working for Kumba. It was no small commitment, considering the scope of Kumba’s operations, Sishen mine, and at the Kolomela mine which employs 3,800 miners that are exposed to the elements during their work shifts to enable the mine to operate 24/7.
Since embedding a company-wide culture of zero harm and elimination of fatalities programme as well as taking a holistic approach to health and safety at its operations, Kumba has been without a fatal incident since May 2016. In addition, it has seen a 67% drop in serious incidents and injuries across its Sishen, Kolomela and Saldanha Port operations.
“Fatalities do not have to be an inevitable by-product of mining. If we can work one day with zero harm, then we can do two, four, 100 and more. We know the fatal risks facing us, and we need to manage them properly,” says Philip Fourie, Head of Safety and Health at Kumba.
This new approach to safety has seen a fundamental change in mindset from mine leadership and every single employee, that includes a relentless focus on managing catastrophic and fatal risks, and a commitment to ensuring the health and wellness of all miners, their families and the broader community. Safety results now form part of employee key performance indicators (KPIs), and as such, affect their bonuses.
“We all play a role in preventing accidents and injuries. So, we set out sacred covenant rules that if you break them, you will lose your job. Preserving lives of our employees is key for us,” says Fourie.
Kumba has facilitated a model that not only includes fatality elimination, through the usage of safe technology tools but takes it has invested extensively in the health and wellness department to ensure workers are absolutely fit and alert when working. This is all to ensure its safety culture is embedded and enforced – including costly site shut-downs, where necessary, to rectify hazards and modify high-risk processes and behaviours.
As previously stated the company has a raft of new technologies and innovation to reduce exposure to occupational hazards that pose a risk of injury and disease. These include:
- Auto braking on trucks, as part of a collision avoidance strategy to prevent trucks colliding with each other and structures
- Auto drilling, which sees drill operators sitting in air-conditioned cabins away from dust and noise. This alone has had a significant effect on the health of the operators.
- Remote dozers, where workers operate machinery remotely in risky conditions, like steep slopes and inclines.
- Drone technology, which reduces the need for employees to do physical blast clearances, survey technology and general observations.
- Separation of vehicles and humans and minimising contact
The inclusion of a state-of-the-art fatigue management system, which combines human fatigue risk prediction software and alertness technologies to predict the risk of fatigue and monitor employee fatigue in real-time has been successful. Supervisors can then take immediate action, which includes sending employees to the mine’s fatigue centre for evaluation and a break.
Kumba’s clinic near Kolomela also been running treat lifestyle diseases and maintain the broader health of the community and the employees.
This includes everything from influenza to mental issues such as depression and trauma.
Additionally, no major environmental incidents were reported for the third consecutive year and the mine has rehabilitated 130 hectares, with an additional 2,500 hectares assigned for biodiversity offsets.
“We had to change our entire strategy to focus on fatality elimination, the programme will take five years to roll out effectively but our results in the past three years have been positive. We want to reduce our potential risk to fatality, We want to become a fatal free company,” noted Phillip