Zimplats recognised the need to improve their safety culture to prevent injuries. To do this, they implemented the IsoMetrix EHS management solution in 2016. As a result, they have achieved nine million fatality free hours, and counting, with a lost time injury frequency rate of 0.19 per million hours worked.
These are the safety statistics that bear testimony to the extraordinary achievements of the board, management and employees of Zimplats, Zimbabwe's largest mining operation.
Stanley Segula, COO of Zimplats, explains the company's approach. "Back in 2008 we realized we had a problem. That year we had 154 injuries, of 11 were LTIs. Ten years later, as at end September 2018, we have had 3 injuries, of which one was a first-aid case, the second a minor injury, and the third an LTI."
So how did this remarkable improvement come about? "It took a huge focus on education," explains Segula. "At Zimplats we moved from reactive to cooperative working. If you take the analogy of a fire, at first it was a question of ‘We did not know we would get burned'; this progressed to ‘We knew the risk but got burned anyway.' Now, today, everyone is a Risk Manager!"
In 2008, the company analyzed its top risks, and identified technologies that would reduce risk in its operations. Recently the mine had a fall of ground collapse, with zero injuries. The sensors that had been installed for remote monitoring of ground stability had allowed the company to evacuate everyone before the collapse occurred.
At that time the leadership team also decided to implement an integrated system for SHEQ management. "Our system is our life and blood. The safety system is embedded within our production systems," says Segula, "as everything that we do has a safety focus." Zimplats has subsequently automated their EHS systems, implementing IsoMetrix for management of safety, health and environment in 2016.
As Segula explains, it was also important to take the team along, to inculcate a sense of ownership regarding safety management. "When it comes to safety, we have a culture of zero tolerance. People simply do not cross the red line. Everyone in the company understands and appreciates that. Leadership resilience is crucial. Our people pillar is our most important asset. We have self-directed work teams that take ownership of their safety responsibilities. And because individuals are all different, it is important for us to understand the psychological make-up of a team. Depending on the risk profiles of individuals within a team, we will sometimes need to blend teams, to reduce their overall risk.
"Competition is also effective if harnessed properly. We operate a safety log across 40 teams, who compete for honors month by month and quarter by quarter. Safety doesn't start and end at our doors. We encourage our employees to commit to safe behavior in their communities, and we have carried out broader community-based safety programmers and mental health programmers."
Zimplats is hailed by its peers as a regional benchmark in the mining industry. Their success has been based on creating a strong safety culture, underpinned by effective systems. And the company's outstanding results to date have not engendered any sense of complacency. The goal is to further reduce the company's LTIFR to 0.17 in the year ahead.