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South32 admits failure on safety

South32 Ltd. has conceded that it needs to improve its safety record following four fatalities in the last financial year.

“The one area I feel that we didn’t perform well at all as an organization was on safety,” Ricus Grimbeek, president and COO, Australia, told attendees Sept. 29 at an industry event in Perth, Australia.

“We really struggled on the safety side. We had four fatalities in Africa in the last financial year and it’s something that sits so badly with me as a person and … we are absolutely committed to turn that around. I actually want to run a business where I can guarantee people’s safety.”

In 2015, a contractor was fatally injured during a rigging operation at the Hillside aluminum smelter in Richards Bay, South Africa, and an employee was killed during rail operations at the Mamatwan manganese mine in the Northern Cape, South Africa.

Another two fatalities occurred in June of this year when a worker died in a mobile equipment accident at the Hotazel manganese mine, also in the Northern Cape, and a fourth worker was killed in a fall-of-ground incident at the Klipspruit coal mine in Mpumalanga, South Africa.

On top of that, South32’s total recordable injury frequency climbed to 7.7 from 5.8 per million hours worked.

Grimbeek told reporters following the event that South32’s top priority is safety.

“We’ve got a long way to go there,” he said. “So there’s a lot around work design and getting the work designs much better, and through the engagement process we’re using employees to help design our work because they are actually the ones that know best because they operate near the equipment every single day.”

South32 has implemented a strategy that focuses on an inclusive workplace, a culture of improvement and well-designed work.

Grimbeek believes this strategy will not only help improve safety, but it will also make South32’s operations more efficient and cost-effective.

“The beauty of our care strategy, if you follow the logic, is when you look at work design, cost and safety and efficiency is an outcome of well-designed work,” he said.

“So when you design the work, you also design it in a way that’s efficient from a best process to follow and the least amount of inputs necessary and then also the most cost effective. So it gives you so much more bang for your buck than just a safety program that you overlay on the top.”