Management commitment to health and safety standards, combined with good planning and ongoing auditing, has allowed South Africa-based open-pit mining contractor SPH Kundalila to sustain operations, wherever permitted, the company says.
“The cost and the disruption have been significant, but we acted early to put resources and systems in place,” Graeme Campbell, Group Commercial and Operations Manager at SPH Kundalila, said. “It has been particularly important to constantly review our performance. Learning from the experience of our different sites has also helped keep safety standards high.”
Most of the company’s work sites in South Africa were required to close at the start of the lockdown, requiring shutdown procedures at each site. This included planning for the movement of staff and equipment, while updating access control measures.
It also meant collaborating closely with mines to ensure clients’ requirements were also observed. Limited operations continued at SPH Kundalila’s own dolomite and lime mine, designated as an essential service due to its product’s importance to farming.
According to SPH Kundalila Safety Manager, Quintin van der Merwe, an important aspect of the response has been the drafting of a revised safety, health, environment, and quality (SHEQ) policy.
“Our COVID-19 policy is the highest level of commitment from senior management to address the risks that were emerging from the lockdown,” van der Merwe said. “This covers a range of issues from financial provision and the supply of protective equipment, to respect and care for employees.”
Based on a COVID-19 management plan, SPH Kundalila is continually assessing the risks facing employees and operations. Attention is also placed on education and awareness-raising, as well as continuous improvement while observing COVID-19 regulations as they evolve.
“Being quick off the mark was key to our response – which included securing 1,000 litres of hand sanitiser and 1,000 cloth masks even before the lockdown,” he says. “The focus then moved to risk assessment and mitigation, such as the risk of infection from employees’ movements and sharing of equipment and office space.”
Results have been positive, Campbell said. With about 1,000 employees spread over 10 branches and half a dozen mining sites countrywide, the company was already 90% operational by the end of May. The high standards followed by SPH Kundalila align with those of the Raubex Group, as well as the Aggregate and Sand Producers Association.
“This has ensured that our internal audits – and those by our clients and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy – have made no adverse findings during the lockdown to date,” he said. “As a caring company, we have seen employees responding well to the changing demands. This translates into sustaining a high level of service across our operations.”