Addressing the recent Mine Occupational Health and Safety Tripartite Summit, Chamber of Mines CEO Roger Baxter called for major safety improvements.

It is intended for the tripartite leaders and their stakeholders in the South African mining industry to reflect on the current Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) performance and the achievement towards implementation of 2014 agreed Mine Health and Safety milestones.

In agreement with the Minister, we as stakeholders acknowledge that the increase in the total number of fatalities during 2016, compared to this date in 2015, is extremely disappointing.

This is particularly so given the industry’s serious commitment towards achieving Zero Harm and the continued improvement of overall safety trends over the past two decades as a direct result of the various tripartite health and safety initiatives adopted by the industry.

It is the first reversal in nine years. Prior to this Summit we heeded the call to address concerns that were being raised by stakeholders and held a Tripartite Leadership Workshop to reflect on this performance convened by the Mine Health and Safety Council on the 12th of October 2016 at the Johannesburg Country Club in Auckland Park.

The workshop was attended by stakeholder principals of employers, organized labour and the state under the stewardship of the Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources, Godfrey Oliphant. His view was that the mining industry should be bold and agree that Zero Harm was achievable and pledge to have no more fatalities until the end of financial year.

This one day workshop was meant for stakeholders to reflect by reviewing the status of the current industry OHS performance in the mining industry in terms of where we are in respect of the 2014 Summit OHS milestones and targets, identifying the areas of concern influencing the industry’s current OHS performance and the impact on the achievement of Summit milestones and targets.

It was also meant for analysing the interventions applied and mapping out what worked and what did not, discussing what can the different stakeholders collectively and individually do in bringing about a step change to improve the industry OHS performance and harness the achievement of Summit milestones and exploring new ways to address the mine health and safety challenges including key messages to be presented at this summit.

My testimony bears that indeed the session was a great success through robust discussions and presentations made by different stakeholders expressing their views on pertinent issues relating to occupational health and safety on the South African mining industry.

At the end of the workshop, there was consensus amongst all the partners in that things had to be done differently if the sector wanted to achieve the milestone targets and ultimate goal of Zero Harm. The outcome was that a declaration of actions to be taken collectively was urgently needed and FIVE key priorities and related actions (the pledge) were agreed upon which are as follows:

  1. Tripartite visible felt leadership and relationship building

Action: Principals and leaders of all stakeholder groups commits to meeting at least on two facilitated sessions on health and safety matters per annum.

  1. Trust deficit

Action: All stakeholders will address the issue of trust deficit amongst the stakeholders moving from a transactional to transformative approach on OHS matters.

  1. Communication

Action: All stakeholders – the MHSC, organised labour, state and employers – will commit to improving communication across all levels to ensure that the message of Zero Harm reaches all mine employees and contractors, and in so doing support and permeate actions intended to improve OHS throughout the industry.

  1. Empowerment of supervisors and employee empowerment

Action: Stakeholders will collectively and collaboratively empower supervisors, health and safety representatives and employees through extended visible felt leadership and empowering conversations.

This will not only be implemented by employers but also other stakeholders from organised tripartite stakeholders will also strive to empower women in mining on safety and security challenges, personal protective equipment and hygiene issues that impact on them.

  1. Annual company health and safety days

Action: Each mining company will commit to hosting an annual health and safety day tailored to their respective needs as part of their overall health and safety campaigns.

It is my great pleasure to present this pledge to all of you as witnesses to this occasion and to invite our principals to come forward and declare that from today onwards they are recommitting themselves to change the situation using the above FIVE key actions so that the sector can achieve the mine health and safety milestone targets.