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Odehyeba Kwaku Owusu-Ansah had been working for the State Gold Mining Corporation (SGMC) at its Tarkwa mine for 10 years when employees were told a new, South African-based investor was taking over the mine. The 1993 acquisition of SGMC by Gold Fields was a relief, says Odehyeba, as SGMC was in distress and morale among workers’ low.
Odehyeba, who started as a casual labourer at SGMC, was appointed a Shaft Man when Gold Fields took over in 1993 and he has been with us since. As a Shaft Man, he assisted the Charge Hand in the maintenance of the shaft when the company was operating underground. Employees like Odehyeba, who have been with us from the start, have been instrumental in Gold Fields Ghana’s success over the past 25 years.
Now Tarkwa’s Senior Safety Officer, Odehyeba tells us how he rose through the ranks at the mine, clearly and rightfully proud of his achievement.
“Soon after the takeover I received my blasting certificate and, after taking many more courses, I became a shift boss. Most importantly, my teams operated without incurring any injuries. This brought me to the attention of management and, when the underground mine closed in 1999, I was assigned to observe risks at the surface operations.
“Not all underground employees got a job when it closed but due to my good production and safety record as shift boss I believe I was promoted. It’s also helped that many of my managers in the early years encouraged me to be hard working and share my experiences with younger colleagues.”
Safety our Number One Value
In his current job Odeyheba is a custodian of our Number One value, Safety. He believes that the slogan, “if we cannot mine safely, we will not mine at all”, resonates with all employees, but that it needs to be reinforced all the time.
“I make sure that the safety signs at the road side and the chop houses are updated all the time. But, because 80% of the incidents are caused by human error, we also go out and engage our colleagues directly all the time. This is a two-way process and all employees are encouraged to report all safety and health hazards, including near misses. Only if we report and measure can we then implement mitigating actions.”
He personally works with sign writers as they craft the latest safety sign boards. As part of our interview he shows us around the workshop where the signs are being drawn. Five sign boards are ready to be installed and Odehyeba gives instruction to employees to do so.
Compliance with and implementation of OHSAS (Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series 18001) also falls under his responsibility. “If we are OSHAS 18001 compliant it means that we have good systems in place to control and minimise health and safety risks at the workplace.
“Transportation is a specific focus of our work as this where the biggest safety risks occur and the work includes checking the physical condition of vehicles, their safety equipment and talking to the drivers, most of whom now work for contractors,” Odehyeba explained.
He takes safety very personal. “Our injury target for the year was five and we’ve recorded 12 already this year. It’s a very poor performance, which we have to bring under control,” he says.
Family and Legacy
Odehyeba has worked in the mines his entire working life, joining in 1983, a year after completing senior secondary school. “Tarkwa was my first place of work and I believe, with only a few years left before I retire, it will be my last.”
The father of seven acknowledges the immense support he and his family have enjoyed from Gold Fields over the years.
With scholarship from the Gold Fields Ghana Foundation, his children were also able to get an education. All of them have now completed the university. “Gold Fields has done a lot for me and my family, giving my children educational support and scholarships from primary school through to tertiary institutions. “
One of his daughters currently works with Gold Fields contractor Engineers and Planners (E&P). But as he nears retirement, Odehyeba hopes that more of his children will be employed by Gold Fields directly. “It would be great if one or two of my children could follow my legacy at Gold Fields,” he says.