For many years, Gold Fields has pursued zero harm in line with our number one value: safety. While we have focused primarily on physical safety, we have expanded our view to ensure employees and contractors are protected from all forms of harm – physical and psychological – in response to increased awareness of harassment and bullying in the mining industry.
This broader focus drives our work to cultivate a respectful and safe workplace, which includes building a culture of care; driving diversity, equity and inclusion; and identifying and eliminating harmful behaviours such as bullying, harassment and discrimination.
Our Safety Strategy comprises three mutually supportive pillars:
Our focus on obtaining the right balance between these three pillars supports our goal to eliminate safety risks to our people.
Safety systems and processes
We are deeply saddened to report the loss of one of our contractor colleagues in a fatal incident on 11 October 2022. The incident occurred at the St Ives mine when our colleague was conducting underground drilling activities. Out of respect for the wishes of their family, we have not shared any personal details of the deceased. The incident remains under investigation, and we are unable to share further details until the process is concluded.
After year-end, on 8 March 2023, a contractor at the Tarkwa mine died in a vehicle accident and, on 5 February 2023, two contractors at the Asanko mine in Ghana, managed by Galiano Gold, sustained fatal injuries in a vehicle accident at the mine.
There is no more tragic reminder of the overriding importance of safety at our mines than the loss of human life, and we again extend our deepest sympathies to the families, friends and colleagues of all four deceased colleagues.
We recorded five serious injuries this year, a decrease from nine in 2021. In addition, the Group’s annual total recordable injury frequency rate (TRIFR) improved to 2.04 per million hours worked from 2.16 in 2021, continuing the downward trend of recent years. The severity of lost time injuries, as measured by days of work lost, has remained stable after falling sharply in 2021.
We are pleased to report South Deep has not reported a fatal incident since April 2021, making 2022 its first fatality-free year since 2012. This is a significant milestone and reflects years of unwavering commitment to implementing sound safety systems, processes and standards, and working with our people and organised labour to develop the right safety culture.
We include leading and lagging safety performance indicators in operational, regional and Group-wide scorecards to ensure broad ownership of the safety agenda. Leading indicators include safety engagements and reporting of near-miss incidents. In 2022, we averaged 11 safety engagements for every 1,000 hours worked, up from eight in 2021, and reporting of near-miss incidents increased three-fold from 581 in 2021 to 1,577 in 2022 due to concerted reporting efforts at South Deep.
Group safety performance (employees and contractors)
|Lost time injuries (LTIs)3
|We also recorded non-occupational fatalities at our mines in 2018
|Since 2019, we apply Gold Fields' definition to classify serious injuries, whereby a serious injury incurs 14 days or more of work lost and results in one of a range of
|LTI is a work-related injury resulting in an employee or contractor being unable to attend work and perform any of their duties for one or more days after the injury
|TRIFR = (fatalities + LTIs + restricted work injuries + medically treated injuries) x 1,000,000/number of hours worked
|Severity rate = days lost to LTIs/hours worked x 1,000,000
Critical control management
Our adoption of critical control management (CCM) in 2018, has been essential in improving control over potentially severe incidents known as material unwanted events (MUEs). The absence or failure of a critical control may significantly increase the risk of a MUE occurring, despite the existence of other controls. Using the ICMM’s approach, we have developed, and regularly review, critical controls for the most significant mine safety hazards.
Our focus on critical control management also leads to strong performance against our internal environment, health and safety scorecards. For the third consecutive year, all operations achieved or exceeded 80% compliance with these scorecards.
Gold Fields is a founding partner of the International Mining Safety (IMS) Hub, an online portal for industry-endorsed visual safety tools that improve learning opportunities and safety for employees. The IMS Hub also serves as a platform to share learnings and good practices in CCM.
Auditing fire risk in 2022
During the year, we conducted in-depth fire and explosion audits against the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) Standards, a set of US best practices. These audits help us ensure our critical controls for fire control and explosives are robust and aligned with global good practices.
The outcomes of the audits show that, overall, Gold Fields has good fire systems in place for its key installations. The audits identified areas where fire systems need to be upgraded to be at NFPA Standard level. We will create a Group fire guideline incorporating the NFPA Standards in 2023.
Managing geotechnical risks
The Gold Fields corporate geotechnical team conducts annual reviews of all geotechnical incidents and incident types at our operations to identify trends and reduce the likelihood of incident recurrence. There were 28 incidents within the open pits in 2022, 57% of which were batter-scale falls-of-ground. The number of incidents was unchanged over the three-year period 2020 – 2022, despite the pits being deepened during that time. There were 60 geotechnical incidents in the underground mines in 2022 (2021: 66). Dynamically driven ground support failure accounted for 58% of these, with falls-of-ground in both supported and unsupported areas leading to the remainder.
Seismicity can contribute to fall-of-ground incidents in our deeper-level mines, and destress activities pose the highest risk for seismic-induced falls-of-ground. South Deep had 34 seismic incidents in 2022, while our Wallaby underground mine at Granny Smith in Australia recorded two incidents.
We mitigate this risk through geotechnical projects like improved support and standards, backfilling and stabilising and, to identify seismic activity early, we perform seismic analysis and have seismic monitoring systems in place. At South Deep, pre-conditioning is undertaken in all destress areas to fracture the rock mass ahead of work being done.
Modernisation and mechanisation to improve safety and health
Advancements in technology continue to transform the mining industry, and safety is our key driver to further modernise and mechanise our mines. This is an ongoing focus area, and dedicated teams in all regions are tasked with identifying how we can leverage technology to keep our people safer and healthier.
We are part of the ICMM’s Innovation for Cleaner, Safer Vehicles (ICSV) initiative, where member companies work with original equipment manufacturers in a non-competitive space to develop new vehicle technology and improve existing vehicles. These improvements lead to environmental and safety benefits.
We continued to make good progress in our work on fatigue management systems and collision avoidance systems. For example, the fatigue management system at our Damang mine in Ghana alerts supervisors when it detects fatigue, and includes a wellness programme for individuals who show a trend of fatigue.
During the year, we also trialled fatigue management systems at our St Ives mine in Australia and Salares Norte in Chile.
Following successful design in 2021, South Deep installed collision avoidance systems on all underground load haul dumpsters, trucks, long hole stope rigs and utility vehicles. In 2023, the mine will install the system on underground 4X4 vehicles and rail-bound equipment. It had planned to install the system on all remaining underground vehicles in 2024, but legislation promulgated in 2022 by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy will require acceleration of the implementation schedule.
We continued work to remove people from active mining areas at South Deep via teleremote loading and rock breaking from surface. During 2022, this was expanded to include all underground impact breakers, while in 2023 we will investigate teleremote longhole stope drilling capabilities. A latest-model raise borer, acquired in 2022, has teleremote capabilities. We are also working with consultants to introduce remote control operations at our Australian mines, led by Granny Smith, where some activities will be managed out of our Perth office.
Using battery electric vehicles underground can reduce the heat load and minimise the impacts of diesel particulates. We continued the work commenced in 2021 to trial these vehicles at our St Ives and Granny Smith mines. Trials of a battery electric vehicle LHD loader will commence at South Deep in 2023. Our trials highlight the importance of operational readiness when introducing battery-operated vehicles, as they come with their own set of risks (mostly related to fire from damaged batteries).
Safety leadership and safe behaviour
We continued driving our Courageous Safety Leadership (CSL) programme, which encourages all employees to model safe behaviour for others. The programme gives employees practical tools to become safety leaders and focuses on creating a safe environment for people to speak up and stop work in an unsafe situation.
During the year, we trained 8,400 employees and contractors in the CSL programme, exceeding our target of 4,000 – partly due to high employee turnover rates in some regions. To date, over 22,000 people have completed this programme.
We started developing a refresher CSL programme to deploy in 2023. Our goal for the refresher programme is to reinvigorate the focus on safety leadership, drive team commitments and create links to critical control management. The CSL programme is supported by our Vital Behaviours programme, through which managers demonstrate their commitment to safety practices. We are rolling out this programme across our operations in 2023.