Health, Safety & Wellness
Our promise that “if we cannot mine safely, we will not mine” stands. We remain determined to demonstrate that gold mining, whether carried out above ground or below ground, can be carried out at less risk to employees, bearing in mind that mining has inherent risks to health and safety. We will continue to work towards minimising these risks.
All our regions are required to have health, safety and wellness strategies and associated action plans in place. The strategies and plans include the following key elements:
- Occupational safety
– Occupational Hygiene
– Occupational Medicine
- Occupational health
- Community Health and Wellbeing
- Structures and Resourcing
Gold Fields continues to uphold its promise, ‘if we cannot mine safely, we will not mine’. This reflects the need to minimise any potential negative impact on our employees and contractors, maintain operational continuity and protect the Company’s reputation. Gold Fields’ Group annual performance bonus contains a significant safety component. Furthermore, maintaining safe and healthy working conditions is a key compliance issue for the Company.
As stated in our Occupational Health and Safety Policy, Gold Fields strives for ‘Zero Harm’ at all of our operations and to minimise occupational health and safety hazards. All of the Group’s operations are certified to the OHSAS 18001 international health and safety management system standard.
The work on safety and wellness is integral to our operational discipline and is accepted as the foundation for improved operational performance. As such, there is no conflict between pursuing safety and productivity at the same time.
During 2017, Gold Fields' safety performance regressed after years of steady improvement. Most critically, we recorded three fatal injuries compared with one fatal injury in 2016. The total recordable injury frequency rate (TRIFR) increased to 2.42 incidents per million hours worked in 2017 from 2.27 in 2016, which was the lowest TRIFR at Gold Fields since 2013 when the ICMM adopted the measure as the most accurate gauge of safety performance.
The number of recordable injuries also rose to 138 in 2017 from 124 in 2016. Of the 138 injuries, 75 were employee injuries (2016: 76) and 63 were contractor injuries (2016: 48).
Most concerning is the increase in the fatalities last year, two of which occurred at South Deep and one at the Tarkwa mine in Ghana:
- On 1 January, Thankslord Bekwayo, a dump truck operator at South Deep, hit an underground safety support structure with his truck and dislodged a horizontal beam, which struck Mr Bekwayo in the driver's cabin. Following the incident the mine installed cabin doors in all relevant vehicles, repaired and illuminated steel support arches and enforced first-gear driving in support-set areas
- On 16 February, Nceba Mehlwana, a South Deep loco driver, was fatally injured when he was struck by a steel drill rod he was using to close a stuck hopper door. After the incident the mine examined all hoppers, removed all sub-standard units, upgraded all hoppers after a comprehensive design review and ensured appropriate training and work practices are in place
- On 14 October, Moses Adeaba, a contractor at the Tarkwa mine, was crushed by equipment in a scaffold storage shed. Since this was an unauthorised access area, the mine reviewed access controls to such sites after the accident, as well as the stacking arrangements in storage sheds
Despite the setback in our overall safety performance last year, certain operations reported strong performances. The Cerro Corona mine in Peru reported only one recordable injury in 2017. That was in January of that year; since then it has operated for 14 months without a recordable injury. The Tarkwa mine in Ghana has a TRIFR of 0.18, the lowest in the Group with only three reportable injuries in 2017, which included the fatality. South Deep has operated for over a year and well over one million fatality free shifts since the fatal incident on 16 February.
Behaviour-based safety programmes are in place across our operations and our work at embedding these into our day-to-day performance, along with visible management leadership on the ground, will be strengthened in the wake of the fatalities during 2017. A safety leadership forum has been established to share learnings and good practices across the Group.
To address the risk of major safety and related incidents, the Board's Safety, Health and Sustainable Development Committee in 2017 oversaw the adoption of the critical control management approach promoted by the ICMM. The material unwanted events (MUEs) in safety and then health, environment and community were identified and prioritised in each region. Controls to prevent or mitigate these MUEs were then prioritised in a process continuing in 2018. In addition, major safety incidents in the mining industry globally were monitored to identify potential risks to Gold Fields' operations.
Gold Fields' major safety MUEs have been identified, amongst others, as explosives, vehicle incidents, fire, hazardous materials, slope stability, machinery and guarding and underground ground control. The major health, environmental and community MUEs identified are tailings facility incidents, exposure to hazardous chemicals, particularly cyanide, failure to comply with legal requirements and water pollution.
For more details view our latest Integrated Annual Report 2017.
Health and Wellness
Gold Fields is committed to reducing the exposure of its employees to occupational health risks, including those associated with air quality, silicosis, tuberculosis, diesel particulate matter and hearing loss. As such, each region has implemented occupational health and hygiene monitoring for diesel particulates, respirable and silica dust, other airborne pollutants and noise. Particular emphasis is placed on managing the underground working environments in Gold Fields' Australian and South African operations, due to the heightened health risks that underground mining poses to workers.
All of Gold Fields' regions run dedicated health programmes, tailored to both the national and local context of each mining operation. These programmes aim to identify and manage chronic medical conditions within the workforce, whilst also maximising its productive capacity and reducing absenteeism.
The adoption of the critical control management approach promoted by the ICMM, will also assist with the identification and mitigation of adverse health impacts on our employees.
Occupational diseases at South Deep (rate per 1,000 employees and contractors)
|Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL)1||0.78||0.80||0.68||1.52||0.62|
|Cardio-respiratory tuberculosis (CRTB)||3.26||5.26||6.16||9.15||6.5|
|Chronic obstructive airways disease (COAD)2||0.47||0.64||0.17||0.76||0.00|
|South Deep workforce||6,432||6,277||5,837||5,246||6,466|
Silicosis and Tuberculosis
The South African mining industry regulations for silica dust exposure require that 95% of all personal silica dust samples taken must be below 0.05mg/m³ by 2024. By the end of 2017, 24% of the employee silica dust samples exceeded this level, compared with 26% in 2016. South Deep has accelerated the implementation of a range of improved dust control measures to gradually reduce these levels, including:
- Real-time dust monitoring
- Fitting water mist sprays at dust sources
- Dust management controls on footwalls and internal tips
- Establishing of a dust-task team
- Introducing of centralised blasting in 2018
- Introducing of automated footwall treatment systems in 2018
During 2017 the Silicosis rate per 1,000 employees regressed to 1.71 from 1.12 in 2016, with the number of Silicosis cases submitted to the relevant health authorities rising to 11 from seven in 2016. However, no South Deep employee who joined the mine after 2008 and had previously not been exposed to silica dust, has contracted Silicosis. South Deep's CRTB rate improved to 3.26 per 1,000 employees in 2017 from 5.26 in 2016 and the number of CRTB cases submitted per 1,000 employees fell to 21 in 2017 from 35 in 2016.
In 2014 an industry working group was formed to address issues relating to compensation and medical care for occupational lung disease in the South African gold mining industry. Since then the working group has had extensive engagements with a wide range of stakeholders, including government, organised labour, other mining companies and legal representatives of claimants who have filed legal suits against the companies related to occupational lung disease.
The companies - Anglo American South Africa, AngloGold Ashanti, African Rainbow Minerals, Gold Fields, Harmony and Sibanye - believe that fairness and sustainability are crucial elements of any solution and are working together with these stakeholders to design and implement a comprehensive solution that is both fair to past, present and future gold mining employees and also sustainable for the sector. The companies do not believe that they are liable in respect of the claims brought, and are defending these.
In May 2016, the South African South Gauteng High Court ordered the certification of a silicosis class and a tuberculosis class following the filing of the legal suits. The High Court ruling did not represent a ruling on the merits of the cases brought against the mining companies. The Supreme Court of Appeal granted the mining companies leave to appeal against all aspects of the May 2016 judgment. However, during 2017 good faith settlement negotiations between the working group and claimants' legal representatives reached an advanced stage, so much so that both parties jointly asked for the appeal proceedings to be postponed until further notice. This was granted.
For more details view our latest Integrated Annual Report 2017.