SUSTAINABILITY Health and wellness

Health and wellness



The Covid-19 pandemic had a reduced impact on operations during H2 2022, although Australia was impacted by absenteeism during a wave of infections in the first half of the year, on top of the ongoing skills shortages. We continue to roll-out employee vaccination and recorded no Covid-19-related deaths during the year.

Of the 3,425 positive cases in our workforce in 2022, the majority were mild or asymptomatic, and only six of our colleagues required brief hospitalisation. The number of positive cases in our workforce suggests Covid-19 numbers in the general population are higher than official statistics indicate. We stopped vaccine tracking due to data privacy legislation, but nearly 90% of our workforce had received double vaccination dose by October 2022.

Since the start of the pandemic, Gold Fields has facilitated over 330,000 tests among its workforce of 22,000 people. To date, we have had almost 9,000 positive Covid-19 cases among employees and contractors. Regrettably, 20 employees and contractors passed away from Covid-19 in 2020 and 2021.

However, Covid-19 is increasingly managed in a similar way as other infectious diseases, and we largely phased out our crisis management protocols towards the end of 2022. Nevertheless, our operations remain vigilant for new Covid-19 waves and are ready to implement the necessary hygiene and distancing measures if required.

Occupational diseases

Our workforce may be exposed to hazards that could cause a range of occupational diseases, particularly Silicosis, Cardio-respiratory Tuberculosis (CRTB), diesel particular matter (DPM) and Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). Because we operate underground and open-pit mines, the degree of exposure risk varies from site to site.

Our approach is focused on safeguarding our employees from exposure to these risks, aligned with our commitment to upholding human rights. We manage occupational diseases through our CCM approach and Occupational Health Strategic Framework, which we developed in 2021 and rolled out at all operations during 2022. In addition, we formed a Health Working Group to consolidate and align occupational health management practices and develop consistent approaches to mental health and psychosocial risk assessments.

We comply with all occupational health regulations in the countries where we operate. In jurisdictions where regulations are not yet in effect, we are guided by industry best practice standards.

The Group's occupational disease frequency rate decreased by 26% from 2021, and the number of employees suffering from occupational diseases decreased by 21%. Most of these cases occurred at the South Deep mine. No occupational diseases were reported in the Americas region, whereas only musculoskeletal disorders were recorded in Australia and Ghana.

Diesel particulate matter

DPM poses a risk for employees operating diesel-powered vehicles or working with machinery in confined underground spaces. This risk is more pronounced at our Australian and South African mines than at our open-pit operations in Ghana and Peru.

During the year, DPM levels continued to fall significantly, and only 4% of personal samples exceeded the Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL) (2021: 48%). This substantial improvement is largely due to the continued fitment of advanced diesel particulate filters to underground vehicles at our Australian and South African mines, the use of low-sulphur diesel, as well as ventilation monitoring to ensure the optimal dilution of DPM in workspaces.

In Australia, maintenance schedules, operator training, monitoring protocols and corrective action processes for any exceedances of the OEL further contributed to the improvement. As a result, Australian mines rarely exceed their current OEL of 0.07mg/m3 per 12-hour shift. In South Africa, we align with the local industry limit of 0.16mg/m3 until the regulator promulgates an OEL.

Our ICSV programme also forms part of our approach to reducing DPM.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

NIHL is a risk for employees exposed to ongoing high-noise levels from machinery and equipment. New NIHL cases decreased slightly, with four cases reported at South Deep (2021: five). All new equipment purchased should not exceed noise levels of 107 dB(A), in line with the 2024 industry milestone.

In addition, South Deep fits quiet new fans, while retrofitting existing fans. Where appropriate to the workplace, we have introduced teleremote equipment and provide personalised hearing protection equipment to employees. We encourage OEMs to develop quieter equipment through our participation in the Minerals Council South Africa.

Dust, Silicosis and Cardio-respiratory Tuberculosis

Underground dust levels are a key focus area as they pose a Silicosis risk and further increases employees' susceptibility to CRTB. This is a risk at all underground mines in South Africa, which may be further compounded by employees' off-site living conditions.

At South Deep, new Silicosis cases reported to authorities dropped to two in 2022 (2021: 12). All employees diagnosed with Silicosis go on a six-month prophylactic CRTB course of medication, as Silicosis increases the risk of contracting CRTB. The employee's work duties are also adapted to minimise exposure to silica dust.

Wider dust mitigation strategies include extensive dust monitoring and measuring, automated dust suppression systems and, as far as practical, removing people from risk. Training, education, and awareness programmes as well as appropriate protection equipment are provided to employees. Annual and ad hoc medical screening help with early identification.

In May 2018, Gold Fields and five other South African gold companies reached a historic settlement with claimant attorneys in a Silicosis and Tuberculosis class action.

A settlement trust, known as the Tshiamiso Trust, has been established to carry out the terms of the settlement and to ensure all eligible current and former mineworkers across southern Africa with Silicosis or work-related Tuberculosis (or their dependants, where the mineworker has passed away) are compensated. By the end of March 2023, the Trust had paid out R1.03bn (US$65m) to 11,569 industry claimants.

At 31 December 2022, the provision for Gold Fields' share of the settlement of the class action claims and related costs amounted to R179m (US$11m). The nominal value of this provision is R245m (US$14m). The ultimate amount of this provision remains uncertain, with the number of eligible workers successfully submitting claims and receiving compensation being unclear.

CRTB and chronic obstructive airways disease cases increased during 2022 to nine (2021: eight) and two (2021: one), respectively. All cases were at South Deep.


HIV/Aids is a particular risk for the South African population and is therefore a focus at South Deep.

HIV/Aids cases decreased at South Deep to 19% of the workforce from 20% in 2021. At the end of 2022, 942 employees were living with HIV/Aids. We offer voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) to prospective and permanent employees, including contractors, and the bulk of the workforce underwent VCT in 2022. We also provide HIV-positive employees with free highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART). 933 employees were enrolled in this programme in 2022 (2021: 903). Employees' dependents can access HAART through the Company's medical aid schemes.

HIV/Aids is less of a risk in Ghana, where the national HIV/Aids rate is below 2%. However, we offer free VCT to employees and contractors and run several educational programmes. During 2022, 61% of our employees in Ghana underwent VCT (2021: 41%) and eight are enrolled in HAART (2021: six). We identified no new HIV/Aids positive cases among our Ghana workforce.


Our workforce in Ghana faces a high risk of exposure to malaria, and we have a comprehensive malaria control strategy in place which incorporates education, prevention, prophylaxis and treatment. It also includes provision of mosquito repellent for workers, support for community health facilities and rapid diagnosis and treatment. In 2022, 260 employees (2021: 472) tested positive for malaria. We assist our employees and communities under the malaria vector control indoor spraying programme.

Some of our women leaders at South Deep
Some of our women leaders at South Deep

Gold Fields will not tolerate any forms of harassment, bullying, discrimination and harmful behaviour for any reason.

Our aspiration for zero harm means safeguarding our people's psychological and emotional health as closely as their physical safety and health to ensure they go home safe and healthy every day.

To achieve this, we need to build a culture centred on respect and care, one that values diversity, is inclusive and upholds the fundamental human rights of all our people. This culture also leaves no space for possible sexual harassment and gender-based harm in our operations, which is a key focus for Gold Fields.

Eliminating harmful behaviours

Elizabeth Broderick, a world-renowned thought leader and expert working with the United Nations, completed an independent Group-wide review on harmful behaviours in our business, including harassment, bullying and discrimination. The review included all regions, offices and sites, and offered employees the opportunity to confidentially and anonymously share their experiences.

We expect to receive the Broderick report in Q2 2023, after which management and the Board will take time to assess the findings and recommendations and will develop a detailed response plan. We will release the key findings and recommendations of the review, together with planned actions in H2 2023.

While we await the outcomes of this independent report, we already have several important policies and programmes in place. These include a Harassment and Sexual Harassment Policy; unconscious bias training; support for programmes that combat gender-based violence; training on diversity and inclusion and ongoing communication campaigns.

These programmes support our broader efforts to build the participation of women across all areas of our business, which includes our focus on recruitment, development and career pathways (see People programmes for strategic delivery).

Responding to Western Australia Parliamentary enquiry

In 2021, the Western Australian government commenced a parliamentary inquiry into the treatment of women in the resources industry. In response, our Australian region conducted an independent review of our own business, over and above the Group-wide Broderick review, and our operations have made good progress in implementing the actions that arose from the review:

  • Leadership accountability and visibility for continuing to build a respectful and inclusive workplace by strengthening leader-led facilitation and training
  • Educating our entire workforce about our expectations for the behavioural standards in our workplaces and the consequences when these standards are not upheld
  • Enhanced communication and engagement on gender safety issues, ensuring people feel empowered to raise concerns and have options for bystander interventions
  • Enhanced work environment and consistent standards, including ensuring our physical work environments, camps and facilities provide and support physical and psychological safety for all
  • Business partner alignment and ongoing management, which is critical given the integration between our contractors and employees
  • Following the 2021 internal and external reviews of our workforce culture in Australia, we commenced with the implementation of our Respectful Workplaces #listen programme around creating safe, respectful and inclusive workplaces

Protecting employees' mental wellbeing

Mental health programmes are an important part of our work to provide employees with a psychologically safe and supportive work environment. Harmful behaviours are not the only cause of employees' mental health challenges, and the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of designing a workplace conducive to positive mental health.

We formed a Health Working Group to develop a consistent approach to mental health and psychosocial risk assessments and ensure collaboration and learning between our regions. We are also developing Group Wellbeing Principles.

During the year we identified standard psychosocial risks to assess, including sexual harassment and assault, bullying, discrimination, workplace relations and support services. In 2023, our Australian region will assess these risks as a pilot project, which we will consolidate into a Group-wide systematic approach to mental health.

Mental health work in Australia

Over the past few years, the importance of mental health in the fly-in fly-out (FIFO) industry gained prominence. FIFO work can manifest in mental health challenges due to the remote nature of the work and time away from family and friends. The regulator in Western Australia developed a Code of Practice specific to the FIFO industry following a parliamentary inquiry.

Australia's three-pillar strategy drives a supportive culture, with a focus on breaking through the stigma associated with mental health. Initiatives promote awareness of mental health issues, while each site has mental health action plans in place and tracks compliance against the Code of Practice