Our Safety Strategy

Our Safety Strategy comprises three mutually supportive pillars to support our goal to eliminate safety risks to our people:

Safety systems and processes

  • Critical control management
  • Catastrophic risk audits
  • Designing out the risk

Safety leadership

  • Courageous safety leadership
  • Live the values
  • Focused on control effectiveness

Safe behaviour

  • Psychosocial safety
  • Follow procedures
  • Take 5 for safety
  • Speak up and listen up

While we have improved many lagging safety indicators since introducing our current strategy, serious injuries and fatalities continue to occur across the Group. We are committed to eliminating these incidents completely – a commitment we have not yet met. Longer-term, we have undoubtedly made progress – reducing serious injuries by 65% since 2018 and consistently reducing the annual total recordable injury frequency rate (TRIFR), for example – however, we have reported at least one fatal incident annually over the past six years.

During 2023, two contractors at Tarkwa died in incidents on the mine. In addition, a non-operational fatal incident occurred during the reconstruction of Tarkwa and Aboso Stadium in Tarkwa, a project funded by the Gold Fields Ghana Foundation. Tragically, we will also not achieve our ambition of zero fatalities this year, as a South Deep employee was fatally injured in an underground incident involving trackless mining equipment on 2 January 2024. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the loved ones and colleagues of the deceased.

We also recorded sixRA serious injuries this year, compared with five in 2022. The Group’s annual TRIFR improved, continuing the downward trend of recent years. The severity of lost time injuries (LTIs), as measured by days of work lost, remained stable after falling sharply in 2021. Gold Fields standardised its method for measuring “hours worked” at South Deep, departing from a formula to actual hours. This change affects the frequency rate calculations. Standardising the methodology does not change the improvement in TRFIR (or LTIFR) performance over the last five years, but rather resets the number.

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 2023, we reported a 21% increase in our safety engagement rate from 2022, while reporting of near-miss incidents increased from 1,577 in 2022 to 2,325RA in 2023 due to concerted reporting efforts at South Deep.

Following the Tarkwa incidents, we conducted an extensive safety review – driven by a cross-regional peer group and external experts – focusing on critical control management (CCM), contractor management, change management and our safety engagement processes. We are in the process of implementing the recommendations from this review – including improving our safety culture, which is actively driven by regional executives and mine management. Gold Fields Ghana also implemented several measures to improve safety following the above-mentioned fatalities, including:

  • Reviewing the number of material unwanted events (MUEs), which reduced from 19 to nine, and implementing the MUE and critical controls strategy
  • Continuous drive on hazard identification and reporting
  • Intensifying Visible Felt Leadership
  • Enhancing critical control verification

The Group’s failure to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries prompted the Board and management to facilitate a Group-wide independent review, to be carried out in H1 2024 across the Group. In addition, our corporate safety, health and wellbeing capability is being enhanced with the appointment of a dedicated Group safety executive to oversee the review and the implementation of the recommendations, as well as provide greater support and strategic leadership to the mines.

Furthermore, management is looking at a reset of the Group Safety Strategy with the development of a new Gold Fields Safety Way, to be achieved in H1 2024 by:

  • Revising the Group Safety Strategy, to be presented to the Board in August 2024
  • Undertaking a safety diagnostic through third-party experts to understand our current safety processes and supporting culture. Sites’ general managers are integral to this process and provide guidance and direction through a management committee structure
  • Reviewing and updating the Group’s safety and health assurance process
  • Continuing to review safety reporting systems to ensure prompt learning of lessons from internal and external incidents, as well as accurate, transparent reporting of leading and lagging indicators

We continue to collaborate with our ICMM peers to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries. The ICMM is reviewing fatal and potentially fatal events, as well as occupational health, to understand underlying themes and inform a collective response. We will incorporate the outcome of this study into our Safety Strategy review process in 2024. The preliminary findings of this review, conducted by an independent firm of experts, show most fatal incidents in the industry are known and understood, and can be mapped to the nine major mining health and safety risks previously identified by the ICMM. The recommendation is that the industry reassess how safety risk management is applied, considering every risk as unique to one which focuses on risk identification and the application of pre-defined controls and performance requirements. Furthermore, the study found that, in 50% of fatal incidents reported by ICMM members, critical controls had failed to some extent. As such, they recommended a re-focus on critical control verification and testing to ensure the effective implementation and application of these controls.

Group safety performance (employees and contractors)

(new methodology)1
2023 (current)1 2022  2021  2020  2019 
Fatalities2  2  2 
Serious injuries3  6RA  6 
LTIs4  27  27  31  30  32  38 
Total lost time injury frequency rate (LTIFR) 0.62RA  0.53  0.60  0.62  0.72  0.80 
Employee LTIFR  1.11RA  0.84  0.64  0.67  0.91  0.96 
Contractor LTIFR  0.44RA  0.40  0.58  0.59  0.62  0.72 
Total TRIFR5  2.36RA  2.01  2.04  2.16  2.40  2.19 
Employee TRIFR  3.68RA  2.77  2.04  2.35  2.91  2.83 
Contractor TRIFR  4.37RA  1.68  2.04  2.08  2.13  1.88 
Severity rate6  28  24  19  19  32  23 
1 Gold Fields standardised their method for measuring “hours worked” at South Deep, departing from a formula to actual hours. This change affects the frequency rate calculations. Standardising the methodology does not change the improvement in TRFIR (or LTIFR) performance over the last five years, but rather resets the number. The table above shows 2023 data for both methodologies
2 A non-operational fatal incident occurred during the reconstruction of a stadium in Tarkwa, a project funded by the Gold Fields Ghana Foundation
3 Since 2019, we have applied 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 injuries detailed at
4 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
5 TRIFR = (fatalities + LTIs + restricted work injuries + medically treated injuries) x 1,000,000/number of hours worked
6 Severity rate = days lost to LTIs/hours worked x 1,000,000
Safety programmes

Our operations continue to review and improve safety processes, systems and standards, and our employees and contractors receive regular training in safety programmes, such as Courageous Safety Leadership and Vital Behaviours, as we work toward preventing MUEs and eliminating serious injuries and fatalities.

Critical control management

Our adoption of CCM has been essential to improve our control over MUEs since 2018. The lack or failing of critical controls may significantly increase the risk of MUEs despite the existence of other controls. Based on the ICMM’s approach, we developed – and regularly review – critical controls for the most significant mine safety hazards.

This year, representatives of each region attended a workshop to review Gold Fields’ CCM processes and indicators, progress proposals on the use of leading indicators, and ensure alignment on reporting metrics. Our focus on CCM also leads to strong performance against our internal environment, health and safety scorecards. For the fourth consecutive year, all operations achieved or exceeded 80% compliance with these scorecards.

In Australia, our operations improved their current approach to CCM to align with the new Work Health and Safety Act. While critical hazard standards have been a requirement of safety management systems for many years, this will be an opportunity to improve our system and, in particular, increase diligence around verification of controls by line management. We developed a Critical Hazard Management Plan for the region, revised our critical hazard standards, established standardised critical control verification toolkits and provided training to over 200 leaders across our sites. An external audit is scheduled for H1 2024.

In South Africa, our employees and other stakeholders remain updated on MUEs and associated critical controls through various communication channels and educational tools, and we introduced a measurement tool to gauge the effectiveness of our controls. We have drafted and assessed 12 MUEs, with the effectiveness rating of these showing steady improvement.

To fully integrate and align our business partners with our safety efforts, we conducted a comprehensive gap analysis to identify opportunities to enhance our collective organisational culture, safety processes and systems. We are working to close identified gaps and ensure our business partners are an integral part of the Group.

As previously reported, Gold Fields is a founding partner of the International Mining Safety (IMS) Hub initiative, an online portal through which CCM learnings and good practices can be shared visually and clearly to simplify and standardise processes and systems. The IMS Hub also improves learning opportunities and safety for employees while enabling us to benchmark critical controls against those of other companies.

Managing geotechnical risks

The mining industry continues to face geotechnical challenges due to ageing of certain mines and a trend toward mining deeper pits and more complex, often deeper underground deposits. This leads to higher pit walls, more complex underground environments, increased exposure to geotechnical instability, and increased propensity for seismic damage and hydrological impacts.

The Group’s 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 45 incidents within the open pits in 2023, 85% of which were batter-scale falls-of-ground, mainly in weaker oxide zones.

The number of incidents increased only marginally between 2022 and 2023, despite two new pits being mined and existing pits deepening during this period. There were 42 geotechnical incidents in the underground mines in 2023 (2022: 60). Dynamically driven ground support failure accounted for 72% of these, with the remainder due to falls-of-ground in both supported and unsupported areas.

Our portfolio consists of deep-level mines which are seismically active due to induced stresses approaching or exceeding the strength of the rock mass. Seismicity can contribute to incidents in these mines, and destress activities pose the highest risk for seismic-induced falls-of-ground. South Deep had 15 seismic incidents in 2023, while our underground mines in Western Australia – at Granny Smith, Agnew and St Ives – recorded four incidents.

We aim to use industry best practices in seismological monitoring and analysis, in addition to using dynamic ground support in these operations. We further mitigate this risk through geotechnical projects like improved support and standards, backfilling and stabilising pillars 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. We also appointed the Geotechnical Review Boards to help implement industry best practice geotechnical design; monitoring; mine design; extraction sequencing; and ground support implementation, specifically at Cerro Corona, South Deep and the Wallaby mine at Granny Smith.

Modernisation and mechanisation to improve safety and health

Advancements in technology continue to transform the mining industry, and safety is one of our key drivers to further modernise and mechanise activities in 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.

Safety interventions implemented for fatigue management are significantly improving the number of fatigue events reported, as well as operator discipline. In Ghana, our collision avoidance system is operational, with improvements in installed operational equipment and maintenance. At South Deep, work is far advanced in introducing extensive collision avoidance systems in line with government regulations, which are set to be finalised by year-end. In Australia, Gruyere started deploying it surface commission avoidance system. Granny Smith’s underground situational awareness system was in full operation, with plans to roll-out across the Australian underground mines in 2024.

At present, collision avoidance technology in machines alert operators to the presence of a person or vehicle, who can then respond accordingly. At year-end, the installation of more advanced detection sensors will seek to prevent machine-to-machine or machine-to-person collisions by slowing down and then stopping the machine completely. Cap lamp detectors will help prevent machine-to-person or machine-to-machine collisions by slowing down the machine and stopping it automatically.

We continued to remove people from active mining areas at all our mines via teleremote loading, rock breaking and underground mining activities from surface. At South Deep, during 2023, we installed teleremote longhole stope drilling capabilities, while teleremote load haul dump surface operations are use across Australian underground mines.

Using battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) underground can reduce the heat load and minimise the impacts of diesel particulates and reduce carbon emissions. We initiated several programmes to decarbonise movement of mining material and waste. Our 2030 target is to reduce diesel usage at our mines by approximately 20%. Most prominently, we initiated trials of BEVs at various sites in partnership with OEMs. These trials aim not only to reduce emissions and DPMs but also improve vehicle safety.

Gold Fields is also actively involved in the Innovation for Cleaner Safer Vehicles initiative, which is partnering ICMM members with leading mining vehicle OEMs. The initiative is seeking vehicle development with lower carbon and diesel particular matter (DPM) emissions, but is also working toward advanced collision avoidance technology to eliminate fatalities from vehicle interactions.

Refer to our Climate Change Report for more details.

Safety leadership and safe behaviour

We continued driving our CSL programme, which encourages all employees and contractors 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.

In 2023, our focus shifted to developing a refresher course to ensure safety leadership remains at the forefront of our operations. In doing this, we align the programme with the Gold Fields Way (p44), aim to reinvigorate the focus on safety leadership, drive team participation and create links to CCM. From a behavioural perspective, we continued implementing programmes to drive positive safety behaviours within the workplace. This includes our Vital Behaviours programme, through which all employees demonstrate their commitment to safety practices.

During the year, we trained 4,251 employees and contractors in the CSL programme and, to date, over 28,000 people have completed this programme.