Mining is striving for zero harm.
JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Mine safety is absolutely essential. Stopping injury and fatality in mines just has to happen. How can South Africa achieve the zero harm that is needed?
This was Mining Weekly’s opening question to Dilley Naidoo, the director of business development at Rifle-Shot Performance. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video.)
“I’m so glad you raised this topic. How we minimise harm and injury and ensure the safety of people is something that is very close to my heart.
"These are workers who have families within their communities. If we look at South Africa, and we look at the way the mining sector was originally created, I think we need a little bit of truth and reconciliation in terms of the selfish self-interest of investors.
“Yes, investors need to get their return, but without workers, we cannot operate and creating an environment that can almost guarantee that the people come first, is a must.
“We now see that a number of the mining companies have tagged the slogan of zero harm and I think that is fantastic. The mining industry in particular has done a tremendous job and must be applauded in terms of the initiatives they've taken over the past several years now to look at the importance of zero harm and safety of the workers.
“However, there is a lot more that can be done. We had a high of some 600 people in past years that were killed in the mining sector. I am so glad that at the end of 2022, South Africa had a total of 38 deaths. But again, that's too many deaths, so will we achieve zero harm?
“It's a good objective to aspire towards, but we know that in the process, there could be opportunities for potential harm. The key is how do we work in what we call the control of employees work in the operations.
“These are very harsh environments. They are very dangerous environments, and they are running 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year in some cases. A number of these casualties take place during the shift changeovers,” says Naidoo.
Some implemented systems give employees access that matches the task work order assigned to them, while also being linked to maintenance systems to ensure that the equipment being worked with is being maintained. These systems are being implemented using digitalisation and the Internet to be able to help minimise employee control of work incidents.
Mining Weekly: Can these digital systems be fiddled with and when there's an incident involving safety breaches can people turn the details around? Or, is it really hard and fast that people can't change things? And is it fully transparent?
Naidoo: That's a good question. As you know, with technology, you can always get smarter hackers if they choose to do harm, but vis-a-vis paper-based systems and looking at our case studies of the companies where we've implemented the electronic permit-to-work systems, there's almost been zero incidents in those companies, so, clearly, all things being equal, we have helped.
It's very difficult to manage downtime and the impact of that on paper. Does this change when you use a digital method?
Absolutely. If I had to make a comparison with the financial services sector, the Internet is being used to do banking and it is almost instantaneous. With a digital system, one client has told us that with the savings on the contractor wait times, they’ve paid for the system itself.
What new era can mining companies enter by going fully into this live, transparent, easily audited system that you say is there for the taking?
If you look at the entire mining value chain from pit to profit, from exploration, through to operations, from stockyard, to inventory, to operations, going to ports, and then looking at the metals accounting, one of the key things around all these touchpoints is the people side of things. This cuts across the entire operations of the mining sector. There are already companies, particularly in Australia, and in Canada, who are leaders, and others that are using our South African-based technology that we are proud of, and they are driving this, including on the mobile side, because a number of the maintenance people can work offline using mobility and having that then digitised through the systems globally, across the world.
Is there a reluctance to move into this new transparent era?
It's very encouraging that the mining sector in South Africa is adopting digitalisation and they are starting in some areas to become leaders. This particular offering was designed in South Africa using artificial intelligence and companies are becoming very conscious of the use of technology in all the areas, including what we're talking about today, which is the safety of people and the control of employees at work.
Rifle-Shot Performance Holdings