Future of Mining Americas Conference 2018 – Mining Disrupted 
December 12, 2018
How corporates and communities can align expectations through the engagement process
December 12, 2018

Zimplats – A Case Study in Safety Excellence 

Nine million fatality-free hours, and counting.   

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, Managing Director of Zimplats, explains the company’s approach.  “Back in 2008, we realized we had a problem. That year we had 154 injuries, of which 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? “We realized we had to embark on a long journey up the Bradley curve and get our safety culture in the right place. This required 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 that if you touch a fire you would get burnt; we progressed to where ‘We knew the risk but ignored it and got burnt anyway.’ Now, today, everyone is a Risk Manager where the focus is on eliminating the risk altogether!”

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 ground monitoring instrumentation 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.

“Isometrix has gone a long way in consolidating all metrics that make our safety programme easy to transact. You can call on leading indicators and act timely to avert unwanted occurrences. At the same tim,e the system allows you to track programmes or action plans that deliver a safe working environment. The benefits are there for all to see,” says Segula.

Cultivating Safety

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 inevitably need to blend teams, to reduce their overall risk.

“Competition is also effective if harnessed properly.  We operate a safety log across all the 40 teams, who compete for honors month by month and quarter by quarter.  Each team once the pole position and to be the best. 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.