Event Summary for Safety Culture Breakfast Seminar

Culture trumps technology. The best Environmental, Health and Safety management system cannot function to full effect without an entrenched safety culture that makes safe working habits second nature to management and employees.

A strong safety culture is driven by an organization’s leadership. What can companies do to improve behaviour to eliminate fatalities and reduce Lost Time Injury Frequency rates?

On 26 February we hosted our “Safety Culture Starts at the Top” breakfast seminar at the Indaba Hotel and Conference Centre in Fourways.

We heard from industry experts as they described what has – and hasn’t – worked in their experience of instilling safe working practices and behaviour. Attendees were then invited to share their own good practices in an interactive panel discussion.

Speaking at the seminar were industry leaders:

  • Dr AKB Chigwada, Group Safety, Health, Environment and Quality (SHEQ) Manager – Zimplats
  • Mirriam Tenyane, Divisional Executive: Compliance and Regulatory Affairs – Transnet Engineering
  • Dr Urishanie Govender, Head of Safety & Sustainable Development – The De Beers Group of Companies
  • Terence Goodlace, Non-Executive Director – Gold Fields, Kumba Iron Ore & AfriTin Mining

Delivering Sustainable Zero Harm: The Zimplats Story – Dr AKB Chigwada

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As the Group SHEQ Manager, Abednego is responsible for the development of a strong and well-informed SHEQ culture within the company, enabling sound business decisions that balance risk and reward.

“A positive safety culture improves EHS in a workplace,” says Abednego. To develop a safety culture, Zimplats used the background and cultures of its workforce to inform their strategy. In this way they were able to reach their employees on a more relatable level and significantly reduce workplace accidents. Safety culture was implemented in phases. The first phase dealt with technical and mechanical errors, the second phase emphasized technology and implementing IsoMetrix as an EHS management system. The final phase dealt with cognitive errors, as he explains, “Attitude plays a big role in safety culture, it is about us and how we do business as a collective, not just leadership.”

Zimplat’s road to zero harm included adopting Ubuntu philosophy which promulgates the idea that “I am because we are”. In this context, it meant instilling safety culture as everyone’s responsibility. “We did not implement an EHS policy, we saw safety as vitally important to our business, we have a Business Management Policy.

Abednago explains that it was important to have a technology system in place to support this strategy, as the mine was able to track progress through an action manager and identify dangerous zones.

Read more: Zimplats: A case study in safety excellence

Transnet's journey to an Integrated Management System and its ultimate objective– Mirriam Tenyane

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A seasoned Environmental Manager who is experienced and competent in Safety, Health, Environment, Compliance, Enterprise Risk Management & Quality. She has 17 years of extensive and valuable experience in this discipline.

Transnet’s award-winning approach to integrated risk management is the result of years of hard work and dedication by core people such as Mirriam Tenyane. She explains that among the lessons her team at Transnet learned along the way, was the need for establishing a dedicated team. Such a large project will impact every part of the business. “It is important to have internal skills and expertise to build a safety culture. Compliance alone is not enough, it is not a pillar that stands on its own,” she says, emphasizing that an integrated approach to EHS touches all areas and has many stakeholders within the business. It is crucial to bring process owners together to make sure that they are all on the same page.

The De Beers Group: Moving Toward an Unconventional Zero Harm – Dr Urishanie Govender


Urishanie heads the Sustainable Development portfolio at De Beers Group. She is a highly experienced and accomplished professional with a successful track record of increasingly responsible and complex positions.

The De Beers Group spans the entire diamond pipeline. The group follows a structured operational risk management (ORM) system that identifies hazards in a baseline risk assessment, and implements controls to prevent unwanted events. “De Beers focuses on consequences,” explains Urishanie, “We keep a strict safety log for all De Beers operations. More than that, we are committed to implementing a safety culture that sees safety as our number one value. We are all safety leaders.”

At De Beers, there is an unconditional commitment to Zero Harm that has seen a vast reduction in the number of incidents since 2015. This commitment to safety extends beyond operations on the mine itself to encompass health and environmental factors for their employees. “De Beers has reached 10 years of HIV positive mothers giving birth to HIV negative babies,” says Urishanie. More than 90% of De Beers employees living with HIV have suppressed the virus. An undetectable virus means no transmission and reduced infection rates. “We have a health and well being bowtie that provides a structured, ORM-aligned approach to understanding and mitigating health risks which could negatively influence safety outcomes.

“We put safety first from the beginning,” says Urishanie. De Beers has state of the art experiential training that uses technology such as AI and virtual reality to train staff without placing them in dangerous situations.

Leadership and Safety Cultures – Terence Goodlace

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Terence Goodlace’s mining career has spanned more than 40 years. He is currently an independent non-executive director at Gold Fields Limited, Kumba Iron Ore Limited and AfriTin Mining Limited.

Terence began his presentation with a history lesson, reminding delegates that as far back as 1556, Georgius Agricola stated in De Re Metallica that miners should “look after his diggers and other workmen, that they do not meet with those diseases to which they are more liable than workmen in other occupations.” Terence stresses that mining safety is not a novel concept. Mining has always been a dangerous business.

He goes on to explain that a zero-incident process safety culture model covers four key aspects:

  • Leadership
  • People
  • Work environment
  • Practices and procedures

“Safety is not a part of your business but an outcome of the business,” says Terence. Safety performance comes from effective internal processes and systems; quality and maintenance of plant and equipment; effective leadership and communication; and effective people interacting effectively in the work environment.

“Safety performance is not about protecting you from something, but rather about protecting you for something,” explains Terence. The difference in attitudes here is a high regard for personal safety, and for employees to understand that behaving safely means that they get to go home to their loved ones. He argues that this requires instilling a deep respect for personal responsibility for safety within the organization.

Watch the event recordings here: