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Health, safety and well-being

Health, safety and well-being

Number of fatalities
Occupational diseases
HAART* participants in SA

*HAART – High-active anti-retroviral treatment

Safety is the cornerstone of sustainability at Gold Fields. The statement, that if we cannot mine safely we will not mine is more than just a philosophy; during the year the prioritisation of safety over production resulted in an estimated 722 kg of gold not being mined. More importantly, together with the safety credo stop, think, fix, verify and continue, it has initiated a change in the way that the company and its people think about issues of safety in mining. There is a realisation amongst our people that it is indeed possible to mine without injury or fatality and that the target of Zero Harm at our operations is achievable.

However Gold Fields is a long way from achieving its ultimate ambition of Zero Harm. During financial 2010 the target of reducing fatalities at the South African operations by a third was not met. A total of 18 employees tragically lost their lives at our South African operations. We owe it to those who have died to further improve on our safety performance.

The key safety statistics (see accompanying graphs) show that while many safety metrics show improvement, there are still areas where we are lagging.

In the South Africa Region, the Fatal Injury Frequency Rate improved by 18 per cent from 0.16 in financial 2009 to 0.14 in financial 2010 and the Serious Injury Frequency Rate by 14 per cent from 3.22 to 2.76 over the same period. The Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate showed a marginal improvement of nine per cent from 5.38 in financial 2009 to 4.91 in financial 2010.

The South America Region reported no fatalities. The Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate improved by 28 per cent from 0.25 in financial 2009 to 0.18 in financial 2010, but the Medically Treated Injury Frequency Rate showed a slight regression from 0.90 to 1.00. Critically, the Cerro Corona Mine received its OHSAS 18001 certification.

The West Africa Region also had no fatalities but other safety standards unfortunately regressed. The Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate declined from 0.31 in financial 2009 to 0.37 during the year under review, while the Medically Treated Injury Frequency Rate regressed from 0.88 to 1.95.

In Australia our operations had no fatalities but the Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate weakened from 0.94 in financial 2009 to 2.00 in financial 2010 while the Medically Treated Injury Frequency Rate regressed from 9.44 to 10.47.

Various health and safety programmes, rolled out during the year, have made some impact but further work is needed before we are anywhere close to achieving our targets. Incentivising our employees is a critical component and the achievement of safety targets accounts for between a third and up to 50 per cent of their bonuses and incentives. A similar emphasis is being placed on the health and well-being of our staff. We realise that accidents are more likely if our employees are unwell as a result of occupational and other diseases. During the year under review Gold Fields entrenched its efforts – as part of its 24 Hours in the life of a Gold Fields employee programme – to combat the impact of diseases and encourage a healthy lifestyle.

Engaging employees on issues of safety

Management, employees and contractors all play a crucial role in achieving health and safety goals. Employees are represented at various levels on health and safety committees and on a range of statutory and voluntary engagement forums between supervisors, line managers and organised labour. General health and safety topics are also covered in formal agreements with trade unions and during financial 2010 we also initiated a tripartite forum between the company, government and labour.

General and job-specific health and safety training forms part of induction, and is reinforced annually through refresher training. Risk-specific training is also provided where needed.

Quantifying our health and safety risks

Safety is the number one priority at all our operations, but it enjoys even greater emphasis at our South African operations, where deep underground and labour-intensive mining continues to claim the lives of our employees and contractors.

The most significant risk arises from fall of ground, linked to gravity and seismicity. In total fall of ground related accidents comprised 39 per cent of the 18 fatalities in financial 2010 compared with 59 per cent of 22 fatalities in financial 2009. While fatalities caused by gravity increased to five in financial 2010 from two in financial 2009, seismic related fatalities came down sharply to two in financial 2010 from 11 previously. Such improvements are in part attributable to the work done by the Seismic Task Team (see case study, page 106).

High levels of mechanisation, together with the relative shallow nature of the ore bodies in the Australian underground mines, mean employees there are not as exposed to gravity and seismicityrelated safety hazards as they are in South Africa. Similarly the open-cast mines in Ghana and Peru pose a much lower injury and fatality risk. At those mines vehicular accidents and hand-tool injuries pose the greatest injury concerns.

The nature of open-cast operations also poses a much lower occupational diseases risk, and silicosis, chronic obstructive airways disease (COAD) and tuberculosis (TB) are not a significant issue in the Australasian, West African and South American regions.

They are, however, a key risk in the South African Region. HIV/Aids, while not an occupational disease, compounds the risk of TB and the high rate of HIV infection in the general South African population, coupled with the dust-exposure risk associated with gold mining, places South African gold miners at the top of the TB risk category.

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is also a key occupational health risk, that is monitored and actioned at our South African and Australian operations.

Initiatives to improve safety performance

Our pro-active approach to safety has been instrumental in achieving performance improvements during the year. The Safe Production Rules were successfully rolled out to all operations in the group in all relevant languages.

In South Africa they have been fortified by the implementation of the Safe Production Management Programme (SPM), the original five pillars of which were consolidated during the year into a focus on two critical areas: risk reduction and compliance. Initiatives actioned through the safe production management task team were instrumental in improving safety at the South African operations. Other programmes are being planned, including a behavioural based safety programme, which has been designed for roll out in the 12 months to end-June 2011 in the South Africa Region to reduce accidents caused by negligence or non-adherence to standards.

A progress assessment was carried out by the DuPont consultancy during April as a follow-up assessment to the initial audit carried out in 2008. The assessment has shown that the South Africa Region has made good progress towards establishing a culture where safe production and Zero Harm are reflected as a standard way of working.

The Australian operations continued to entrench the highly successful Zero Incident Process (ZIP) safety training programme, which uses psychologically based interventions to bring about behaviour change. During the year, the programme was extended to all major underground contractors. Ghana’s “safety referee” system, introduced at Damang Mine, continues to entrench vigilance and improved safety behaviour through a system of discipline and reward.

Many operations also improved reporting methods during the year. The Tarkwa Mine now reports an average of 2,900 hazards a month compared to a total of 1,020 for the previous year, and both Ghanaian mines include all contractor and minor injuries requiring any form of medical treatment in their MTIFR statistics. Australia’s St Ives operation has expanded the scope of LTIs to include injuries that cause lost-time many months after the initial incident.

Reducing the burden of occupational diseases

All employees undergo initial and annual medical surveillance, the scope and practice of which is aligned to local legal requirements and regional health and safety risks. These tests allow for prevention, early identification and treatment of occupational diseases.

Our most important occupational diseases intervention is Project 4M, aimed at reducing silicosis and noise induced hearing loss at the South African operations in line with the Mine Health and Safety Council Milestones for 2013. Gold Fields is fully committed to meeting and exceeding these targets. Engineering controls reduce exposure at source, while administrative control, training and awareness entrench behavioural change.

We are making some progress. At the end of financial 2010 96 per cent of equipment measured generated a sound pressure level below 110 dB, a key indicator for the December 2013 NIHL milestones. Only four per cent of the individual gravimetric dust sample measures taken at the same time were above the occupational exposure limits of 0.1 mg/m3, which is within the 2013 silicosis milestone indicator of not more than five per cent.

Because of the high rate of co-infection, the South Africa Region consolidated its disease management approach into a single unified strategy that incorporates HIV/Aids, other sexually transmitted infections and TB. Our voluntary counselling and testing (VCT), rates are only 44 per cent of the workforce, and more work remains to be done to meet our 100 per cent VCT target. We continue to raise awareness amongst employees and are investigating partnership opportunities with government to achieve the national goal of testing 15 million people by June 2011.

During financial 2010 993 employees in the South Africa Region joined the high-active anti-retroviral treatment programme (Haart). This was in addition to the 794 employees who remained on Haart during the year.

In Ghana, Gold Fields continues to monitor and treat all cases of malaria among employees, and to educate and train community members. The HIV/Aids programme provides employees and contractors with access to a personalised, confidential health risk assessment and tailored health improvement plan that includes optional HIV/Aids testing. The programme was extended to dependants of employees and community members during the year.

Australia’s St Ives operation is investigating the use of sintered filters to reduce 99 per cent of diesel particulate at source and expects to be in a position to report on their impact over the next 12 months.


The 24 Hours in the life of a Gold Fields employee programme, is premised on the understanding that the role of a company extends beyond the eight hours an employee spends at the workplace. Ensuring a safe workplace, providing staff with decent housing, offering a nutritional diet and encouraging workers to live a healthy lifestyle all form part of the programme. Sport is a critical component in this strategy and we harnessed our staff’s enthusiasm for soccer to encourage active participation in sports. We started upgrading and investing in new sporting facilities at all our operations to encourage employees to lead a healthier lifestyle.