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National Day of Health and Safety in Mining recognises improvements, notes challenges that remain
The National Day of Health and Safety in Mining was recently celebrated, and the occasion was marked with an event presented by the South African Minerals Council on Wednesday, 3 August.
The leadership of the Minerals Council, including this organisation’s CEO, Roger Baxter, its President, Nolitha Fakude, along with the Chair of the CEO Zero Harm Leadership Forum, Themba Mkhwanazi elaborated on the progress the local industry has made on the health and safety front, while also noting the challenges that stand in the way of zero harm in the mining industry.
Outlining how the Minerals Council’s decision to shift from a “blame culture” to a “just culture” insofar as it pertains to fatalities and injuries in mining, Mkhwanazi said that blame culture is counterproductive, as safety risks are increased when the people who notice problems and make mistakes conceal them or blame others. In contrast, a just culture — together with direct interventions into the most prominent causes of injuries and fatalities — doesn’t remove accountability, but encourages learning from said mistakes.
Mkhwanazi noted that the prioritisation of this shift means breaking away from the way things have been done over the past century, stating, “It is, though, a critical change in a more than 100-year-old mining culture.”
2022 has been a good year in terms of health and safety so far. No fatalities caused by fall of grounds at local platinum and gold mines were reported during the first seven months of the year, while the first half of 2022 also didn’t see any fatalities associated with trackless mobile machinery across the South African mining industry. As these two types of incidents make up a large part of fatalities in the mining industry, they have come under scrutiny from unions, the Minerals Council and its 78 members, and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE).
Notwithstanding the historic health and safety firsts that 2022 has seen thus far, 25 fatalities have been noted in the industry to date this year. All the parties in attendance at the National Day of Health and Safety in Mining event reiterated that this number was still too high, and stated their commitment to jointly working towards zero harm in the mining industry.
Said President of the Minerals Council, Nolitha Fakude, “My greatest wish is that when we meet again this time next year, we will be able to say to each other we have stepped up to the challenge together and turned the tide of fatalities, injuries, diseases and gender-based violence in the industry.”