Canyon Coal, in full support of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s declaration of the state of national disaster to mitigate the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19), scaled back its operations during the course of the initial 21-day lockdown and subsequent Level 5 and 4 stages.
Coal mines were provided with an exemption to operate at reduced capacity levels during this period.
“We support all efforts to enforce social distancing, including confining most people to their homes to prevent social and nonessential business activities from midnight on Thursday, March 26, until Thursday, April 16,” said Canyon Coal Executive Chairperson Vuslat Bayoglu ahead of the initiation of the lockdown.
Pro-active Prevention Measures
Even before the lockdown was declared in South Africa on 26 March 2020, Canyon Coal’s mines had put in place measures to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19.
This included procuring masks and sanitisers for staff, heightening hygiene practices by emphasising the need to wash hands regularly and practicing social distancing.
Khanye Colliery General Manager Guy Thompson and Phalanndwa Colliery General Manager Alan Mabbett have worked tirelessly to ensure that COVID-19 prevention and mitigation protocols and measures were put in place at the mines.
Sanitisers were placed at key areas across the mines, including offices, ablution facilities and general work areas. All staff, including contractors, have been given bottles which they can refill daily with sanitiser. Maintaining 2-meter physical distances between all employees, wherever possible, has be emphasised.
The number of people who attend face to face meetings have been limited and red tape markings have been placed on the floor and desks to ensure that staff do not sit or stand too close to one another. Social distancing markers have been placed throughout the mines to reinforce the need to maintain physical distancing among staff.
Staff have been instructed not to congregate in or around the change rooms and to limit the number of people who are in the change rooms at any one time. Cleaning of all change rooms, ablution facilities and offices has also become more frequent.
The mines have updated their standard operating procedures (SOPs) in accordance with the requirements laid out by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) and the Department of Labour (DOL).
Providing staff with reliable and informative information about COVID-19 has been key to mitigating risks at the mines. Posters have been put up throughout the mines about ways to reduce the risks of contracting COVID-19 and symptoms that staff should be aware of, and seek immediate medical attention should they suspect they have the virus.
Canyon Coal has provided the taxi operators that transport workers to and from the mine every day with sanitising kits to make sure that their vehicles are clean and hygienic, the taxis are also sprayed down with disinfectants at the gate as well. Taxi operators have also been given strict instructions not to allow staff members onto the taxis without wearing masks.
Temperature measurements are taken again as staff arrive at the entrance gate every day to ensure that no one enters the premises with a high temperature. A sanitising booth has also been set up at the entrance to the mines for staff to walk through, which sprays non-harmful chemicals to adequately disinfect staff as they enter and exit the mines.
Anyone who is suspected of being COVID-19 positive and goes for a test is not allowed back onto the mine premises until such time as they have recovered.
Quarantine facilities have been established at the mines, to isolate employees who may show symptoms. In such an instance, they will be immediately isolated in the facility, away from other members of staff. The procedure is to be in contact with Dr Steve Goosen, who is the occupational health practitioner responsible for all Canyon Coal’s mines.
He will speak to the person affected telephonically and, based on his assessment, contact local health authorities to either collect the person to conduct a test, or to have them taken to a health facility for further treatment, quarantine or request that they self-isolate at home
Compliance with Regulations
Khanye Colliery and Phalanndwa Colliery have had COVID-19 compliance inspections from the DMRE and the Department of Health (DoH) to evaluate the measures that the mines have implemented to mitigate the risk of staff contracting COVID-19.
“These inspections were unannounced visits and evaluated all the measures that we put in place throughout the mine to protect our employees. We received positive feedback from the departments and will continue to prioritise our colleagues’ health and safety,” says Guy.
Alan adds: “We expect many more visits from the DMRE and DoH over the coming weeks and months. It is imperative that we maintain our standards and keep all staff members healthy. We also cannot afford to have any closures of the mines owing to cases being detected as this would be very detrimental to the company.”
“The measures we have implemented at our mines are necessary to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. We urge all our employees, partners and stakeholders, along with all South Africans to comply with all the rules and regulations issued by the South African National Coronavirus Command Council. This is in order to halt the spread of the pandemic and ensure that South Africans’ health is preserved and avoid the loss of life,” Vuslat concludes.