Covid-19 measures hinder production

6th November 2020 By: Khutso Maphatsoe - journalist

Health and safety measures at Canyon Coal mines have changed drastically since the emergence of the pandemic, and this has had an impact on production, says Canyon Coal health, safety and environment manager David Masilela.

He explains that employees have had to change the way they operate and adapt to new methods of work, including a reduced staff complement, as a result of only essential teams returning to work. This has had an adverse effect on throughput.

The daily screening of all returning employees, contractors and site visitors has also had an adverse effect on production, says Masilela.

In line with regulations published in terms of the Disaster Management Act, Canyon Coal’s ten-point plan standard operating procedure, called the Canyon Coal SOP-COVID-19, has formed the basis of Canyon’s efforts to reduce the risk of employees contracting and transmitting Covid-19.

Masilela says that social distancing measures and protection of vulnerable employees have led to meetings being conducted on video communications platform Zoom or telecommunications application Skype. Moreover, in some instances employees who have been asked to work from home have been less productive, owing to a lack of electronic resources.

He comments that taxis and buses transporting employees have to be sanitised before being filled to 70% capacity, with employees’ temperatures taken before they are allowed to enter the vehicle.

“It is important for the company to be seen to be doing the right things in the surrounding communities to reinforce the importance of compliance,” Masilela says.

He notes that employees are familiar with the Covid-19 protocols, but that, continual refreshers and daily updates on the Disaster Management Act measures and regulations still occur.

Masilela explains that, appropriate disciplinary steps are taken, where necessary, to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Disaster Management Act and the subsequent regulations, policies, practices, and procedures to combat Covid-19 in the workplace.

He adds that the company has been involved in community outreach programmes such as providing water, blankets and hand sanitisers to the selected communities in the areas surrounding its mines.

Achieving Zero Harm

Masilela explains that Canyon Coal’s lost-time-injury frequency rate (LTIFR) has improved over the last year as part of its efforts to meet the zero harm goal, by applying effective communication strategies to ensure that employees are cognisant of health and safety policy and procedures.

The company’s statistics shows that from January 2020 no incident has been recorded, resulting in an LTIFR of 0.00.

Masilela notes that a noise-induced hearing loss programme, conducted by an occupational hygienist, has resulted in no recorded cases of employees negatively affected by noise levels.

He adds that conducting investigations and inquiries helps to improve and promote a culture of health and safety.

“Challenges to achieving the zero harm include providing and promoting an environment that contributes to our employees being fit for work and for life.

“In addition to the inherent challenges in accessing the resources relevant to the scope of our operations, we also need to address heightened political and societal expectations to obtain and retain a licence to operate,” Masilela concludes.