Hello to all employees and contractors of the Douglas/Koornfontein Complex! We as Lance Bloch & Associates’ facilitators of the Asibonisane Safety Compliance workshops were very pleased with the level of participation, teamwork and learning we had from all of you. This has been a process, together with the story and mascots of Asi and Boni, that has made a big impact locally and internationally, with even managers from BHP Billiton Head Office in Australia commending it highly!

This article is just to remind you of some of the exercises and learnings that we had from the initial Asibonisane, and from the follow-up Asibonisane Refresher workshop that Koornfontein went through in April and Douglas in May.


(pens and fingers on the table):
Seeing the Bigger Picture, which includes taking care of all of us, the company, and our equipment. This also includes taking care of future generations, as the awful recent fatality due to previous explosives not being cleaned up 8 years ago, showed.


These were all about clear communication, taking care of each other, building trust, and teamwork. If I am looking out for you and you for me, if we build a powerful team, we are strong. Do not wait for the manager or supervisor at the front to tell you what to do when it comes to safety: We ALL have to take responsibility for each other’s safety and well-being.


We realised with this exercise that there are serious consequences when we do not comply with safety rules and regulations. “Slow Poison” broke all the safety rules in his car and is no more. Thabo Mbeki almost was killed because not one of the companies or departments involved did their job properly. So, remember: “SAFETY BEGINS WITH ME!!”


We wrote on the flipchart all the reasons that we do not comply. We know from the figures, in fact, that 95% of accidents are due to non-compliance. It was clear that most of these reasons were not due to not knowing the rules and regulations, but to things like taking shortcuts, pressures for production, poor relationships between managers, supervisors and workers. It is thus clear that we need to start treating each other with more respect and understanding, to communicate better and to support each other to build a real culture of “Safety First”. That means, again, all of us doing our bit.


We told and heard stories about accidents and even deaths- at work, at home, on the road- caused by non-compliance. All of a sudden this was not something that happens only to someone else out there, but we realised that we all are at risk every day unless we comply. Some of the worst accidents led to new safety features, such as the safety line, and most rules and regulations have come about as a result of trying to avoid previous accidents happening again. Injuries and deaths effect us, our futures, our families, our friends.


We found out fascinating things about each others’ cultures. We have a huge richness of culture and experience amongst us. In the past this caused problems in South Africa, but with a new openness and willingness to talk to each other and find out more, we can build a strong, vibrant multi-cultural community.


The Safety Song was designed to build energy and teamwork and focus on safety. Douglas/Koornfontein are the first at Ingwe to have a Safety Song, which was selected by a panel of mainly union reps from over 20 songs that were entered. Please learn the words and tune to “4 Steps to Safety”, and sing it at Masakhane areas, at the waiting places, when you are tired, when you return from your shifts. We are building a new safety culture here!


This challenged us to put into operation all the learnings from the day to all get back to our chairs blindfolded. We saw that when we communicate well, when we take care of each other, when we focus on the safety of all, we can achieve the impossible! Zero Harm may seem like an impossible dream, but when we all take responsibility for it, it can be achieved. In fact, the record numbers of classified injury-free days after Asibonisane 1, showed that we CAN do it, with lots of caring, communication and safety focus.


We ended the first Asibonisane programme with the challenge to cross the line and commit yourself to putting safety first, to building a workplace at Douglas and Koornfontein that is safe and healthy, where we are all valued, where we all make a difference. And, as we said, once you cross the line, you can never go back to the way things were!

All almost 3000 employees and contractors at Douglas and Koornfontein went through this programme. BHP Billiton, Ingwe Coal and top management here have made it very clear safety is absolutely essential. We CAN change this place, and our homes and the roads, for the better. It will take time and commitment, but it is worth it!


The Asibonisane Refresher course happened in the shadow of the tragedies of early April at Gloria. While there had been a significant improvement in safety behaviour generally, reflected in the record 105 classified injury-free days at Koornfontein and 4 months at Douglas, any fatality –let alone any injury- is unacceptable and serious. The refresher programme was designed to reinforce and take further the learnings from Asibonisane 1, so this NEVER happens again!


It was important to discuss and if necessary, to let go of the pain of the 2 deaths, and to see what we learnt from this. It was clear that both accidents were due to non-compliance issues: one present non-compliance, and the other from non-compliance 8 years ago, when another team did not follow safety procedures and left a dangerous inheritance. So, if we do not comply, we stand the chance of not only harming ourselves, our friends and families now, but future generations too. Although both the deceased were contractors –who it seems often do not have sufficient safety training and focus- we must remember that we all are in this together. We need to treat and help each other as if we all are part of one community. If we see a contract supervisor, for example, taking shortcuts, or ignoring safety, we need to point this out to him!


We as facilitators reminded you of what we learnt on Asibonisane 1, and then looked at what we have been doing better since then, as individuals and teams, and found that in many respects we have improved a lot. What is important now is to make sure that we “walk our talk”. All that we know needs to be implemented in practise! We then did some more team-building exercises, including paper-tower building and a blindfold walk with Buddies.


In this section, we went into 5 Steps to Risk Assessment, 4 Steps to Safety, the 60 Second Safety Drive, “Stop and Fix” and the 12 Fatal Risks. What is clear is that we work in conditions where there is high risk. As a result, we need to be alert and aware at all times. Working with drugs and alcohol still in our systems negatively effects this awareness, and is dangerous. We used the Blanket Fall and then the Circle Trust Fall to show how important it is to do our risk assessments and follow the 4 Steps to Safety. Remember: you have a right and a duty, when you see something is unsafe, to refuse to work until it IS safe. But we need to not just wait for something to happen, but to fix it ourselves, or ensure the right experts are called to fix it. Do not allow yourself to be bullied, insist on your rights! Ask how can we do what is best for the mine, and for all of us. We are all in this together, working hard for a safe and productive working environment.


In the safety plays, we showed first situations where we did not comply and there were problems, and then where we did comply and everything went well. All of you participated, just as all of you are part of the drive for safety at Douglas/Kooornfontein. It is up to all of us to build this new safety culture, where we put safety first because we care.


These rules are not management’s rules, but came out of the Asibonisane 1 workshops in which we all participated. They are thus YOUR rules. If we do not follow them, there is a fair chance we may be injured or worse. So, please follow them without compromise, and if you see others breaking them, gently remind them to comply!


Finally, we looked at ways of keeping our safety focus alive. We need to all keep on putting wood on the fire of safety, to keep it burning in our hearts, our minds and lives. The ancient Irish kept a sacred flame alive for over 2000 years! One of the ways we will keep our fire burning is through the Buddy System. Help your buddy to stay safe, to do the right thing, and expect him to do the same for you. Another way is by keeping to the commitments we made in public to keep safety uppermost. When we spoke these and again crossed the line to a safer future, we lit a match that will not be stopped. Sing the Safety Song that we practised and should all now know. It too will keep the logs burning, when we start the workday, when we end it, when we are tired, when we are low.

So, it has been a wonderful journey (which hopefully is not yet finished!) for us as facilitators, getting to know you. It has been our privilege to work with you, to help you make a difference, and to know that in your hands safety compliance- the building of a safe, caring, productive workplace and country- will go from strength to strength. Remember, again, “SAFETY BEGINS WITH YOU!” I thank you!

Lance Bloch

%d bloggers like this: