Isibonelo: setting an example
Thermal Coal's Isibonelo colliery has certainly lived up to its name – a Zulu expression meaning "to set an example". It won the Team Safety award at last year's Applaud awards.
Employees at Isibonelo colliery
Employing 289 full-time workers and 274 contractors, the mine faces the same sort of hazards and safety risks as any other opencast coal mining operation. And yet when it won the award at Applaud, Isibonelo had been operating for three and a half years without a single lost-time injury.
This extraordinary record is the result of a culture in which safety is a constant, personal commitment shared by everyone working on the mine. "Safety is like sweeping water uphill," says site manager Reuben Hlatshwayo. "It has to be worked at all day, every day, by every employee and contractor."
A number of steps helped contribute to the Isibonelo team's safety record. For example, Management’s first priority each day is their presence in the pit, plant and workshops, demonstrating visible felt leadership and their commitment to the health and safety cause. Teams drawn from a cross-section of managers and supervisors conduct safety audits on a daily basis.
Isibonelo's safety culture is built on frank and open communication. "There's a genuine open-door policy around safety," says Rudi Marais, Isibonelo's Safety Superintendent. "People are not afraid to come forward with suggestions. In fact, everyone wants to be involved."
The benefits of Isibonelo's safety culture touch every part of the business, and beyond. Production is consistent and efficient. Worker's families feel more secure, confident that their breadwinners will return home safely every night. The culture has also created career opportunities for safety specialists, who are now spreading the Isibonelo gospel at other operations across the business unit.
Isibonelo's outstanding achievement demonstrates a profound personal commitment to safety from each and every person working on the mine. Together, they have shown us that zero harm isn't just a concept – it's a reality that we should all aspire to and achieve.
Watch a video showcasing the dedication and teamwork at Isibonelo.
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