Tough talk at safety summit
Posted: Tue, 29 Apr 2008
[miningmx.com] -- A plea to focus on ‘solving the problem instead of allocating blame’ was made by Anglo American CEO Cynthia Carroll at the start of the Anglo Tripartite Safety Summit.The summit is being held in Johannesburg where Carroll told delegates in her opening speech, “I know there have been many wrongs done in the name of production and that those injustices run deep. “We have to move on, however. To achieve the progress we all want, the focus can no longer be on who is to blame but on how to solve the problem. “Rather than condemnation, we need to find the means and methods to take care of the workforce, to ensure dignity and respect are present every day in every mining operation.” Carroll’s comments were in sharp contrast to those of National Union of Mineworkers' (NUM) president Senzeni Zokwana who spoke ahead of her in an emotive speech highlighting the impact of death and injury to mineworkers on their families. Zokwana blamed mining company managements for the South African industry’s poor safety record. In particular, he criticised the industry’s approach to training and remuneration which he said were major contributing factors to the safety situation. “The trust that mineworkers put in management is being betrayed because of unsafe conditions. Blaming the victim who gets injured or killed has been the culture of this industry,” he said. Zokwana added, “the present production-driven process must change to a safety-driven production process where every mineworker must have the right to decide if a workplace is safe.” Zokwana also wanted a pay structure that gave higher basic wages and relied less on bonus-related pay arrangements. Reason was that workers took more risks to earn more money when their pay was largely determined by their bonuses. The speeches set a confrontational tone for the summit which is intended to “commit to a breakthrough in mining safety and define a clear path forward out of the summit.” The summit is being attended by top Anglo American executives along with representatives from NUM, one of the country's largest single unions, and the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME). Also present amongst the about 100 delegates are executives from other mining groups, the Chamber of Mines and mining contracting firms. In her opening remarks, Minister of Mines Buyelwa Sonjica said the primary responsibility for safety at the workface sat with the employer. She called for compliance with Mining Health and Safety Act (MHSA) which was introduced in 1997 based on the recommendations of the Leon Commission in 1994. Buyelwa said there were a number of areas which particularly worried her some ten years after the MHSA was introduced. “I am concerned that there are different versions of risk assessment. I am concerned that some risk assessments are being carried out with an outcome that is already predetermined, particularly if high costs are entailed.” Documents issued in an information pack to delegates by the facilitators of the summit included viewpoints from Anglo, the government and the NUM on various issues forming the background to the summit. Amongst the key points, according to Anglo, are that safety has to be “depoliticised” and that safety is a responsibility for the unions as well as management. The NUM wants more black supervisors appointed to improve lines of communication with the black miners as well as a “radical” shift in training. The government also felt the language issue was “ a real challenge.” The media were required to leave the summit after the opening addresses were completed. A press conference is to be held at the close of the summit this afternoon.