ASPASA calls out mine leaders over safety

Nico Pienaar, director of ASPASA.
Nico Pienaar, director of ASPASA.

An alarming drop in company leaders participating in health and safety related activities has been noted by surface mining industry association, ASPASA, which it sees as a significant threat to miners’ wellbeing.

In every mine the senior leader of each unit and the company’s directors are ultimately responsible for providing the leadership, systems and processes for the prevention of fatalities. The actions of senior leaders are fundamental to the elimination of accidents.

This has prompted the association to release special guidelines for its members to encourage a return to the fundamentals of health, safety and environmental management. “We appeal to companies and top management to be involved. This is a guideline to help all in the industry and each company will have to adapt the guidelines to suit their own requirements,” says ASPASA director, Nico Pienaar.

He explains that the guidelines provide resources for senior leaders to use in their relentless drive to prevent fatalities through their personal actions, processes and activities they should ensure are in place. The following guidelines have been made available for all mines to use regardless of their affiliation and in the interest of safety:

Behavioural requirements

  • Create and communicate a deliverable vision for fatality elimination
  • Challenge your own knowledge and that of others on the causes and prevention of fatalities; seek out expertise and share learnings from others
  • Set an example for others to follow that shows you genuinely care, and that is consistent, unambiguous, and relentless in approach
  • Consistently demonstrate that fatalities are unacceptable and hold people at all levels accountable for prevention
  • Talk about fatalities as people and make clear your personal commitment to prevention
  • Be credible; follow through and do what you say you will do
  • Engage in inspections and safety discussions at all levels; focus on fatal risks What should I ensure is in place?


Careful planning

  • Strategies and plans that specifically encompass the prevention of fatalities
  • Measurable indicators of fatality prevention that are regularly reviewed
  • A system for providing ongoing education about fatality prevention
  • A mechanism to identify and learn from mistakes that regularly and openly share the lessons learnt
  • Defined, measurable fatality prevention actions for all senior levels that are communicated to the workforce
  • A mechanism for all levels of the organization to be engaged in the identification of hazards and the elimination, control, and mitigation of fatal risk
  • Business initiatives that include an assessment of the contribution to fatality prevention

Actionable initiatives

  • Personally understand the fatal risk profile of your business and engage in discussions around potentially fatal occurrences
  • Focus on operational details; during site visits and operational discussions question and verify whether the critical controls to prevent fatalities are in place
  • Participate in high potential incident investigations and reviews and lead discussion of high potential events at your meetings
  • Question whether the focus of behavioural observation processes also addresses fatality prevention. Ensure that “root causes” of all high potential events are truly understood, and that they are fully addressed
  • Respond to potentially fatal events as you would an actual fatal event. What should I ensure is in place?
  • A shifted focus at all levels of the organization from low consequence injuries to high potential events


Eliminating risks

  • Comprehensive fatal risk assessment procedures, including the identification of critical controls and performance standards
  • A system that encourages full and accurate reporting without fear of consequence
  • Leading practice for Management of Change processes
  • Systems that capture and classify events that have high potential, even if there is no injury or damage
  • Quality investigation, analysis and communication about the causal factors and control of actual and high potential events
  • A mechanism for those who report directly to you to demonstrate their continuous commitment to reducing the exposure to fatal risk

Creating trust

  • Transparent criteria and processes for determining the consequences of non-compliance with fatal risk critical controls
  • Maintain a sense of constant vulnerability; never assume fatalities will not occur
  • Challenge the assumptions of others around their understanding and management of fatal risks
  • Make no assumptions on critical issues; conduct ad-hoc tests on critical controls and seek expert advice
  • Accept no excuses for departure from the operating disciplines associated with fatal risks
  • Explore the preparedness of operations to respond to abnormal conditions

Future consequences

  • Consider the consequences of strategic decisions on the probability of fatalities What should I ensure is in place?
  • A system for ongoing education of all leaders in the origins of human error, and ways to reduce its occurrence and impact
  • The right people, especially leaders, are in the right jobs – with the competencies, intellect, passion, and experience for leading fatality prevention
  • Multi-layer barriers to fatal events
  • Use of the hierarchy of controls; a continuous process to increase systematic fatal risk controls
  • A verification process to validate those critical controls exist and are providing the intended benefit to our employees




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