With the overwhelming number of health and safety requirements facing the mining industry, two companies have found a smarter approach to managing safety processes through the use of software

Mining companies face some unique health and safety challenges with thousands of employees, hundreds of sub-contractors and numerous strict health and safety requirements with which to comply. Kumba Iron Ore, for example, has over 8 332 employees and 600 sub-contractors.

Despite its size, until recently the mining company monitored its safety compliance through paper-based processes – a time-consuming exercise that delayed operations and frustrated sub-contractors. Kumba Iron Ore wasn’t alone, however.

Anglo American similarly relied heavily on paper-based processes. Both companies have introduced the cloud-based Passport 360 software to streamline safety processes and provide better visibility.

Craig Mitrovich, health, safety and environment (HSE) manager at Anglo American, notes: “It slashed onboarding time for our contractors and made the ongoing management thereof far easier and less time-consuming. This allows our safety officers to focus more on safety on site and a lot less on paper management.”

Even some of the Anglo American sub-contractors have adopted the software in their own businesses. The time saved on documentation is a key benefit of Passport 360, with the software provider claiming that it significantly reduces reporting time. The built-in robotic automation technology allows for customised documentation to be compiled in as little as three minutes.

According to the software provider, traditional paper-based documentation can take up to 20 hours. Comprehensive reviews of 200 paper files can take up to 400 days, which makes reviewing all crucial HSE information challenging.

However, without constant monitoring, HSE information can quickly become outdated, which increases the risk of an incident occurring. Software makes it possible to keep safety records up to date and reduces the time required to review the information.

The technology is aimed specifically at the mining industry and provides contractors with access to systems and information without exposing sensitive information. Passport 360 co-founder Siobahn Whitehead explains: “Contractors can access restricted information without accessing the client’s servers or adding to the number of users allowed on software with user restrictions.”

Compliance requirements and standards can be set on the platform to ensure consistency across all the sites and avoid confusion, unnecessary travel or duplications. Anglo American uses the technology throughout its global locations. The mining company also uses the platform to book and track the training of contracting companies.

With less time spent on documentation and reviewing HSE information, the safety professionals can invest their energy in finding new solutions and introduce safety programmes to reach zero harm. While there were only 81 fatalities in 2018, compared to 90 in 2017, the industry still has a way to go to achieve its goal.

In 2017, the highest-ranking cause of death in the mining industry, as a whole, was the fall of ground, which led to 33 fatalities. This was followed by trackless mobile machine accidents (14 fatalities) and track-bound transport (12 fatalities). Other causes included exposure to dust, gas and fumes, slips and falls, drowning, explosives and being struck by falling material.

A report in the Sowetan notes that Sibanye-Stillwater has safe rooms in its Khuseleka mine in the case of a serious emergency. The news organisation quotes Johan Klein, Khuseleka mine vice president: “We have refuge bays all over the mines in close proximity to all our working areas.

“These are places that people are trained to go to if there is any emergency and, from there, we can evacuate them.” The bays are equipped with phones, first-aid kits, toilet facilities and are fed compressed air. It is possible for miners to remain in these bays for a period of time.

In addition to creating safety hubs for the miners when underground, mining companies can also provide resilient personal protective equipment such as hard hats. One young entrepreneur is developing an interesting body suit aimed at protecting the spine and ribs of a miner in the case of materials or ground falling.

Sello Malinga showcased his Spinetector Safety Vest at the 2019 SAB Foundation Disability Empowerment and Social Innovation Awards. The foundation aims to assist small businesses and entrepreneurs, who are empowering their communities, with funding and business advice.

The Spinetector is made from a breathable mesh fabric to ensure that it is dry and cool. It has foam padding and steel plating to assist with protecting the spine, ribs and shoulders from falling objects.

With the correct software, safety officers can focus on introducing innovative solutions, such as the Spinetector, and limit the time spent on administrative duties. 

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