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Three workplace safety lessons you can learn from Harmony Gold's tragedy

by , 07 February 2014
The death of eight miners at Harmony Gold has been South Africa's most serious mining accident since July 2009. As rescue workers continue to search for one missing miner, the incident calls for all workplaces to do some introspection with regards to their safety measures. Here's what you and your employees can learn from this disaster...

Eye Witness News reports that questions are being asked about mineworkers' compliance with safety regulations and equipment used in underground emergencies, following the deaths of eight people at Harmony Gold's Doornkop mine, west of Johannesburg earlier this week.

Yesterday, we reported that 17 employees were trapped, but specialised rescue teams managed to bring eight of them to the surface.

As the search continues for the missing miner, Eye Witness News says one miner told them that while sign boards encouraging safety are visible across the mine's property, once they're underground, they don't comply.

He said: 'We don't use the safety, we just talk about it.'

Could the same thing be happening in your company?

Here are the safety lessons you can take away from the disaster

The fact that an employee revealed he and his colleagues don't follow safety rules is wrong.

Remember you're responsible for your employee's safety. It's not enough to have safety signs; you must ensure your workers comply with safety regulations. This should be your first lesson.

In fact, the Health & Safety Advisor says 'you, as the employer, are required to inform employees and visitors of potential risks and hazards. [And] safety signs are a good way to communicate these risks and hazards.'

The Advisor goes on to say you must ensure all employees and contractors are familiar with the meaning of safety signs.

Read on for more lessons you can take away...


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The second way to ensure compliance with safety regulations is to have a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).

A SOP has details of the process that your workers must follow on a regular basis. It ensures employees perform the task consistently with a standard method and policy.

It's not only workers who are being accused of flouting safety regulations.

According to the report, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has also questioned whether the refuge chambers were indeed functional.

Harmony Gold CEO Graham Briggs has refuted these claims. He says 'the refuge chambers used during emergencies are serviced before every shift and were stationed within walking distance of the trapped miners.'

Your final lesson is that, to avoid accusations from unions, you need to make sure you conduct regular inspections in your workplace and keep records so you can back up your claims regarding safety and the measures you've put in place to reduce accidents.

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