Gold Fields' commitment to safety and health as our foremost priority reflects the need to minimise any potential negative impact on our employees and contractors, maintain operational continuity and protect our reputation. Gold Fields' annual performance bonus - both for managers and the wider workforce - contains a significant safety component. Furthermore, maintaining safe and healthy working conditions is a key compliance issue.
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 OHSAS18001 international health and safety management system standard.
The work on safety 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.
Group safety performance
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.
Group safety performance
|Lost time injuries3||52||39||68||75||52|
|Restricted work injuries4||60||59||68||84||73|
|Medically treated injuries5||23||25||35||38||54|
|Total recordable injuries||138||124||174||200||181|
|1||Total recordable injury frequency rate (TRIFR) Group safety metric was introduced in 2013. TRIFR = (fatalities + lost time injuries + restricted work injuries + medically treated injuries) x 1,000,000/number of hours worked|
|2||Three of the four fatalities in 2015 were workplace accidents. A fourth fatality was a member of the protection services team at South Deep who was shot and killed during a robbery at the mine|
|3||A lost time injury (LTI) is a work-related injury resulting in the employee or contractor being unable to attend work for a period of one or more days after the day of the injury. The employee or contractor is unable to perform any of his/her duties|
|5||A restricted work injury (RWI) is a work-related injury sustained by an employee or contractor which results in the employee or contractor being unable to perform one or more of his/her routine functions for a full working day, from the day after the injury occurred. The employee or contractor can still perform some of his/her duties|
|6||A medically treated injury (MTI) is a work-related injury sustained by an employee or contractor which does not incapacitate that employee or contractor and who, after having received medical treatment, is deemed fit to immediately resume his/her normal duties on the next calendar day, immediately following the treatment or re-treatment|
Regional safety performance
Cerro Corona's outstanding safety performance, with no recordable injuries between February 2016 and February 2017, can be attributed to aggressive safety campaigns and extensive training held at the mine. On a quarterly basis all employees and contractors are given training to reinforce their safety knowledge and motivate good behaviour. Employees were also briefed on the phasing out of coca leaf consumption, which has an adverse impact on alertness levels.
At the heart of Gold Fields Australia's safety efforts are the ongoing Visible Felt Leadership and Vital Behaviours programmes, both of which were introduced in 2014. Our annual survey among employees in 2017 indicated that 91% of the workforce say they adhere to their vital behaviours at all times.
Assessments undertaken on all recordable injuries since 2012 indicate that the risk of incidences that result in recordable injuries is steadily declining. No high-risk events have occurred since 2014. however, during 2017 management compiled 15 critical hazard standards covering these events. Analytical tools have also been provided to mines to assist with understanding and verifying the effectiveness of safety systems.
Contractor safety management will remain a focus at all our operations. For 2017, the TRIFR for our permanent workforce was 8.38 as opposed to the contractor TRIFR of 12.79, a 35% variance. This variance is attributed to the difficulty in achieving the required cultural shifts for safe behaviours with a transient and external workforce.
The Gruyere project, in its first year under Gold Fields' management, has been a focal point to ensure that our Vital Behaviours programme and our requirements for Visible Felt Leadership are implemented. Gruyere achieved a TRIFR below the 8.50 target for 2017, which sets a good foundation for the operational phase given the number of contractors on site and the risks associated with a construction project.
All three mines in the region - St Ives, Agnew and Granny Smith - have underground operations that are at increasing depths. This increases seismic activity and with it the danger of rock falls. All operations have seismic hazard and ground control management plans in place, while real-time seismic monitoring is provided by the Institute of Mine Seismology in Australia. The monitoring programme generates real-time reports that can be tracked from control rooms at the operations and are also available on mobile phones of key staff to take appropriate actions when seismic activity is high.
South Africa region
South Deep's safety performance showed a regression in 2017 with the two fatalities contributing to a rise in the TRIFR to 2.91 in 2017 from 2.42 in 2016.
As a result of South Deep's fatal incidents, the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) issued four Section 54 work-safety related stoppages. A further 11 Section 54 stoppages were issued during 2017 following visits by the DMR due to either perceived unsafe working conditions, inadequate safety procedures or untrained personnel. This brings to 15 the total number of Section 54s in 2017 (2016: 15). These had a material impact on the mine and we estimate that about 24 days of production were lost as a result of the Section 54s stoppages. However, many of the recommendations by the DMR assist the mine in improving safety and wellness-related issues, and we co-operate with the regulator on a continuous basis.
The number of injuries reported by the mine increased to 64 in 2017 from 50 in 2016. Three categories - material and equipment, fall-of- ground and slip and fall - accounted for 75% of these injuries. Underground vehicle and locomotive incidents were the reason for the two fatalities in 2017, and this has been the focus of our safety efforts.
The number of fall-of-ground accidents had been steadily reducing with six reported in 2015, but 14 incidents last year. In 2017 there were nine fall-of-ground incidents, though there were no injuries sustained as a result of these incidents. We continue our efforts to move our employees away from potentially hazardous areas by focusing on strict compliance to spatial design and timeous installation of ground support to mitigate against the impact of fall-of-ground events.
Fall-of-ground incidents underground are the result of gravity and seismic events at South Deep, which occur on a regular basis. Efforts at improving seismic forecasting abilities are ongoing and seismic activity rates are tracked following larger events to determine safer periods for the resumption of work. South Deep is working with 12 consultancies and institutions, including the Institute of Mine Seismology and the Australian Centre for Geomechanics, to monitor, understand and mitigate against seismic risk in deep level gold mining. In 2018 we intend to implement centralised blasting across the mine, which will further assist in reducing the risk associated with seismic events.
All seismic events are tracked and rated on a local magnitude scale. Seismic events registering above one on the magnitude scale decreased to 95 in 2017 from 104 in 2016 while events above magnitude two increased to seven in 2017, one more than in 2016. However, the average energy released per event is declining as the mine continues to implement measures and systems that improve safe production.
Behaviour-based incident management and strict enforcement of safety standards continue to be the pillars on which the mine relies to improve working place physical conditions and address risky behaviour. In addition, 30% of bonuses, on average, are linked to safety-related performance. During 2017, South Deep rolled out four programmes to improve its safety performance, including back-to-basics training, hazard identification and risk assessments as well as artisan upskilling. Testing for alcohol and cannabis is also carried out as part of the mine's zero tolerance policy, which applies to all South Deep employees.
Beyond behaviour-based management, South Deep has also intensified its effort to engineer-out safety risks, through pre-conditioning of working areas, as well as upgrading machinery and equipment. As part of this, installation of a proximity detection system (PDS) has been rolled out at South Deep. The PDS warns both pedestrians and drivers of railed and trackless vehicles of each other's proximity, and has contributed to a reduction of incidents involving pedestrians and mobile equipment.
The PDS system entails vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-personnel and vehicle-to-beacons alert systems. Substantial progress has been made in the implementation of PDS across the mine, as the use of trackless mobile machinery has increased. All 56 locomotives at the mine have been fitted and relevant operators and artisans trained in its use. The next step is the interface between the trackless mobile machinery and rail-bound equipment in areas where the roadway crosses the tracks.
West Africa region
The fatal accident at the Tarkwa mine, overshadowed a continued improvement in TRIFR at both Ghanaian operations. Tarkwa's TRIFR of 0.18 in 2017 (2016: 0.31) is the best in the Group, while Damang's TRIFR improvement to 1.19 (2016: 1.67) is commendable given the risk associated with the Damang pit cutback work.
In the wake of the fatal accident, supervision and contractor management standards were reviewed and improvements recommended. These have been incorporated into the goals of the region's 2018 health, safety and environment strategy. Learnings and actions from the incident have been shared and implemented regionally with Damang.
The mines rely on a number of behaviour-based and safety discipline awareness programmes to entrench safe behaviour. A key part of the safety strategy is a zero tolerance approach to drug and alcohol use. Over 58,000 alcohol and almost 400 drug tests were conducted at both mines during 2017 and employees and contractors, who were found to be over the limit, were dismissed. The zero tolerance approach is supported by free counselling and educational sessions on drug and alcohol abuse.