During 2012, we lost seven of our colleagues in work-related incidents. Our sincere condolences go to their family members, friends and colleagues.
It is Amplats’ policy, in the case of a work-related death, to hold a memorial service at the operation where the incident occurred. Members of senior management also attend the funeral service, together with any other colleagues who wish to be present. We recognise that our employees are often the only breadwinner for an extended family and therefore always employ a member of the family of the deceased following the fatality. Furthermore, we make a concerted effort to ensure that the family is paid all the death benefits due to them in the shortest possible time, on average within six to 12 months after the incident, and assist with practical arrangements for the funeral. We provide financial advice for the widow or widower, and conduct follow-up meetings to ensure that the beneficiaries of the deceased are sufficiently cared for.
In 2012, of the seven fatalities mentioned, three were the result of moving machinery; one was caused by fall of ground; one occurred owing to a falling object; one was a transport-related incident; and the last one owing to heat exhaustion.
All fatal incidents, and also selected high-potential incidents, are independently investigated to identify their underlying causes. Comprehensive action plans are developed to prevent a recurrence of every serious incident.
Despite the sad losses we experienced this year, improved safety trends over the past five years have been very encouraging and show that we are on the right path. We believe that our consistently improved safety performance is the result of our clearly defined strategy that we adhere to even when we have setbacks; and a measure of the sincere, unwavering commitment to safety by the Company’s leadership.
No fatal incidents were recorded during the third quarter, and we also had no fatalities in January, March or April 2012. It was the first time in more than ten years that Amplats had been free of fatalities in the third quarter of the year. We have seen a consistent improvement in safety performance since 2008 when the strategy was formalised and adopted. The strategy follows a holistic approach and has remained consistent even when we have had set-backs. We believe this contributed significantly to the safety performance we saw in 2012. It is important to keep in mind that safety cannot be fixed overnight; any improvement is the result of years of commitment and focus on all aspects of the business.
Several operations achieved their best-ever safety performance in 2012. Among them were:
- Siphumelele Mine – free of fatalities for more than two years.
- Tumela Mine – free of fatalities for one year (365 days) on 18 October 2012. The mine also achieved 2 million fatality-free shifts on 7 November 2012.
On 18 December 2012, the whole of Amplats had been free of fatalities for six months.
Lost-time injury-frequency rate
The lost-time injury-frequency rate (LTIFR) for 2012 improved, to 1.15.
The clinical severity of trauma cases is reported on using a severity-scoring methodology that predicts the clinical outcomes of injuries. In 2012, the severity of the majority of cases was minor injuries, followed by moderate injuries and then serious injuries. August 2012 saw the lowest number of injuries, excluding the periods affected by the industrial action.
The number of days lost due to LTIs in 2012 was 34,381 (2011: 34,241). We had fewer LTIs in 2012; the higher number of days lost is owing to the industrial action that resulted in injured employees not returning to work within the prescribed 14 days.
Safety focus in 2013
Our safety strategy will remain consistent to ensure maintained focus and a holistic approach. In working towards our goal of Zero Harm we will review the performance of 2012; and incorporate into the strategy any new lessons learnt. A key focus area remains the entrenchment of a culture of safety, in which employees take ownership of safety. “Real safety begins with ME” − the theme of our global safety day in November − will remain our theme throughout 2013.
The Zero Harm in Action project will continue in 2013.
CATASTROPHE AVERTED THROUGH SUCCESSFUL MASS EVACUATION
Over the years our emergency medical-care team has made an immeasurable difference to our workforce and Company, by saving many seriously injured persons from death or disability.
Our medical-management system for major incidents tries to guarantee the appropriate and efficient handling of any major medical incident at our operations. The system is regularly reviewed, to ensure that we constantly improve our response to emergency situations.
The effectiveness of this system was borne out when a fire started at Amplats’ Khuseleka Mine near Rustenburg. The initial call regarding the potentially disastrous situation was received at 07:30 on 10 October, and during the next 48 hours teams of medical professionals and support staff worked around the clock to ensure that the people working underground did not suffer undue harm.
Smoke inhalation is the primary cause of death by fire in enclosed spaces, resulting in an estimated 50% to 80% of such deaths. It kills its victims through a combination of heat damage, pulmonary irritation and poisoning. While there had been some fatalities as a result of smoke inhalation at Amplats in the past, this threat was on a vastly different scale as there were now 3,000 mine personnel working underground who might be in danger.
Major incidents by their very nature stretch resources to their limits. As an incident of this sort unfolds, the normal trauma demand-and-supply balance is quickly lost, and a much greater effort is demanded of each participant (whether medical, allied or support) in the trauma-response system. Strategies that most effectively utilise whatever resources are available have to be established and re-established on an ongoing basis.
The 24 hours that followed witnessed the exceptional team effort of medical, safety and mine managers. Together they ensured that more than 650 mineworkers who had been exposed to noxious gases were safely evacuated, assessed and transported to 27 hospitals throughout the three provinces of Gauteng, Limpopo and North West for mandatory medical observation. The timely management of the casualties ensured that the complications that normally accompany noxious gas inhalation were substantially reduced. The hospitals used ranged from our own hospitals through those of other mining houses to public hospitals.
Within 48 hours of the fire alert, 649 miners had been declared out of danger and repatriated to Rustenburg. Another 24 hours later, and the last 10 miners − who had required further observation − were safely back in the town. Within 96 hours of the detection of the fire, our key strategic partners had been debriefed to discuss lessons leant. They included ER24, Netcare 911 and other ambulance services used to transport the miners.
What had in fact occurred was the largest successful evacuation in South African mining history, one that had taken place without a single fatality. This noteworthy achievement has been externally recognised. It was accredited, through an extended audit, as exceeding the standards of quality set by the World Health Organisation. The current head of the trauma unit at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, Professor Jacques Goosen, who had been a trauma surgeon in the mining industry for several years, carried out the audit and accreditation and emphasised the remarkably short time in which large numbers of people had been evacuated and helped.
While we are proud of what we achieved and of the way our staff worked as a team embodying the Company’s values, we have since subjected our emergency response plan to our aim of Zero Harm. Our plan for the handling of major incidents has been reviewed, and it has been further improved.