Construction World

Mines and construction sites can achieve ‘zero harm’ if correct control measures are implemented to control the risks identified in properly executed risk assessments, says Basil Read’s Witness Kwaza, general manager of safety, health, environment and quality.

Basil Read safely we start and finish togetherWith the internationally marked Workers’ Day coming up on 1 May, Kwaza says a risk assessment is any company’s most important tool to prevent workplace incidents. Basil Read has experienced zero work-related fatalities for two years running across its mining and construction sites in South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana and St Helena.

“Our message for Workers’ Day is that, in the workplace, there’s no task so urgent that it cannot be performed safely,” says Kwaza.

“I believe we should use risk assessments to give us a guarantee that there will be zero chances of an incident happening in which someone is injured.”

“Generally, injury-related incidents can usually be traced back to corners being cut due to pressure to meet production goals, complacency or a failure to spend a few minutes to properly identify and understand hazards and controls, prior to commencing a task,” he says.

“If we can really master risk assessments, half our job will be done. We need to make safety, more especially assessment of risks, a way of life.”

Safety is one of Basil Read’s six core values, and the first one listed. That’s on purpose. The others are integrity, compassion, delivery, unity and commitment.

“We at Basil Read go beyond legal compliance,” says Kwaza. “We believe that legal compliance is only the first step in the journey towards zero harm.”

While the organisation has worked hard to achieve its zero fatalities status for two years running, workers have suffered some work-related injuries.

The company sets itself a target at the beginning of every year, and met its 2016 target of a maximum of 0.17 disabling (temporary or permanent) injuries, says Kwaza. This is measured using a standard industry formula of number of disabling injuries multiplied by 200 000, and then dividing that by the total man-hours worked over the exposure period (12 months).

Basil Read, however, missed its 0.15 disabling injury frequency rate for 2017, which would have been a 10% improvement on 2016. Instead, the 2017 figure was again 0.17. This year, the company is again aiming for 0.15, says Kwaza.

There were five lost time injuries (an injury that loses the injured employee at least one shift other than the one in which they were injured) between January and March this year, Kwaza notes.

This was taken as “a red light” by Basil Read CEO Khathutshelo “K2” Mapasa. He requested his executive team to look at a step change that will improve the company’s safety performance and introduce a culture of working safely.

In response, Basil Read’s safety, health, environment and quality steering committee is implementing a Visible Felt Leadership programme to ramp up awareness of, and personal responsibility for, the safety of its employees, says Kwaza.

The programme encourages Basil Read management teams and, increasingly, site leaders such as Project Managers, to visit workplaces to engage in safety related conversations with teams at work, in order to gain an understanding of what the daily safety challenges employees come across in every task they perform.

“They ask questions that drive the employees doing the tasks to question the safety of what they are doing, and to identify the control measures they should be taking. It’s a coaching environment, but without pen and paper,” Kwaza says.

All this is aimed at creating an environment where safety is top of mind for everyone, and where everyone, down to the least-skilled employee, feels able to discuss safety challenges with Basil Read leaders.

“While the Visible Felt Leadership programme was introduced informally in 2015, it has not been fully embedded yet,” he says.

Every time a safety-related incident, no matter how small, occurs on a site it is investigated and measures are put in place to prevent something similar from happening again. When high potential, serious – or fatal incidents occur – Basil Read takes time (minimum two days) to thoroughly investigate, to identify root causes and come up with corrective measures. “At Basil Read, we believe in sharing of lessons learnt from each incident to prevent repeats,” Kwaza says.

Basil Read had four non-work-related deaths between January and December 2017. These incidents were also thoroughly investigated, though they were either not involving our employees or not directly related to our activities. (A non-work-related incident is one in which a staff member is injured in off-work hours, or a private individual is injured on or near the work site).

“The correct approach to conduct a task risk assessment, commonly known as the Daily Safe Task Instruction (DSTI) in the Construction industry, is when a leader of the team , rallies the team members together and leads them through the process of identifying hazards and controls for the task in hand,” says Kwaza. The team leader encourages the team members to interrogate every step of a task for risks and agree on controls to put in place to control those risks, and everyone involved in the task signs that they understand the risks and the controls to be implemented.

“It’s a commitment from Basil Read that every employee, after a hard day’s work, should return home unharmed. It’s a belief that you can be productive without experiencing serious incidents,” says Kwaza.

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Title: Editor
Name: Wilhelm du Plessis
Email: constr@crown.co.za
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