“Safety is not a bolt-on, it’s an integral, vital part of the entire business management process and the personal responsibility of each individual.” This statement by Koos Oosthuizen, risk executive at Murray & Roberts Cementation, helps explain how the company has achieved its impressive safety record of three million fatality-free shifts at Kroondal Platinum Mine.

Almost unheard-of in the mining industry, this exceptional feat has been attained in just under three years. “Safety and associated safety systems should never be stand-alones,” Oosthuizen continues. “Safety is embedded in every aspect of the organisation and a natural part of production. It is implicit in our entire business management system and infuses every activity from procurement to rockface and final production.”

A number of tightly interwoven factors have led to this shift to a culture and mentality of safety, not only for the individual himself, but for his colleagues and team mates. The ‘care’ philosophy lies at the foundation of the approach. “Care stands for contribute, add value, respect and energise,” Schalk Kruger, risk coordinator, explains. “It might sound quite abstract, but in essence it focuses on recognising the value and importance of each individual and his role in the work process.”

“We’ve moved away from the remote impartial authority concept to more personalised behaviour that is integrated into our three-sided procedures/training/coaching principle,” Oosthuizen adds. “Underlying this is the importance of knowing the individuals who work with and for you, knowing something about their lives and what is precious to them, knowing them by name and making yourself approachable and available to them. This encourages everyone to become more personally involved in the lives and safety of others.”

Complementing the drive to implement the best procedures and systems and to empower each individual to do his job are the pre-shift meetings where participation is strongly encouraged. “Communication is key to promoting and sustaining the safety ethic,” Kruger stresses. “Through regular ‘safety flash’ briefs, cartoon illustrations and considerable informal monitoring, every person is engaged at a personal level. This recognition of the individual and the importance of his contribution builds solid self-respect and respect for others. In turn, this enhances pride in personal performance and incentivises people to strive for the maximum.”

Murray & Roberts’ Stop.Think campaign, based on the principle ‘think before you act’, birthed the perspective of ‘do the right work right the first time’ slogan, which applies from the highest echelons to the lowliest worker.

“The active participation of management and the labour force in the Stop.Think safety campaign, coupled with the active implementation of the cardinal rules resulted in the entrenchment of our ultimate goal of ‘zero harm’,” Kruger says.

He says the Stop.Think campaign is continually revived through personal two-way communication and interaction throughout the organisation, and is supported by an open door policy. “This is further strengthened through our policy of personal identification where each individual in the company wears a name tag, removing the age old barrier of management and worker.”

In addition, the close involvement and interaction between Aquarius Platinum (AQP), organised labour and Murray & Roberts Cementation, and the clear understanding of each role player’s responsibility and accountability towards the strive for ‘Zero Harm’ has played a major role in achieving this remarkable milestone.

“We also lay great score on learning from the mistakes of others,” continues Kruger. “Information sharing is a crucial part of our process, analysing accidents that have occurred not only in our operations, but in those of other companies at home and abroad, assessing the risks and putting measures in place to ensure that we can prevent them.”

“We need to understand that this milestone is one of many that must still be met on the road eliminating all injuries,” Freddie Geldenhuys, project executive at Murray & Roberts Cementation, says. “We are, however, very proud that going home safely has become the norm and not an achievement at Kroondal and Marikana.”