Developing a safety management plan by using an integrated approach and knowledge management principles : the journey towards Zero Harm

Coetzer, Marius (2013-03)

Thesis (MBA)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.


The South African mining sector remains a cornerstone of the South African economy in terms of employment and investment opportunities. The exports of the minerals also result in foreign exchange earnings. The mining industry is known to be a high-risk environment where the employees are constantly exposed to potential hazards. It is also a rewarding industry that is ploughing back millions of rand into society and the local economy each year. Apart from being recognised as an industry that is highly unionised and creating employment opportunities, it is also being plagued by re-occurring fatalities. Considering the negative impact that any accident can have on a mine, for example increased costs, loss of operating income, negative publicity and weakened investor relations, one wants to avoid it at all cost. It builds a strong argument that safety, health and the environment (SHE) are not things that are managed once an accident has occurred and it does not have a single point of impact. It is something that needs to be understood, especially the interaction between the individuals and the systems that exists, and then be pro-actively managed. By introducing an integrated approach, key concepts will be introduced into the organisation, transferred between employees, improved on and kept alive that will help to improve SHE results. By improving the knowledge and skills of employees to manage SHE pro-actively, these principles can be applied across the business resulting in achieving benefits across the business. The aim of this research report is to determine, based on literature review, what the latest trends in managing safety, health and the environment (SHE) are that can yield positive results. In chapter two, an extensive literature review was conducted, identifying two methods of managing SHE in high risk environments such as the mining industry. The integrated approach, as presented by Mulder (2010) is considered to be the most applicable and appropriate due to the fact that it proposes an approach that cuts across business functions. This approach identifies five “pillars” that must be in place to ensure that the fundamentals of SHE is in place. The fundamentals of this approach can also be applied in any other area of the organisation and will yield positive business results throughout the organisation and not only to improve SHE. Although this integrated approach is the most comprehensive, it does not include aspects of managing knowledge, which is a key ingredient in this approach. The methodology followed in this research report to supplement this shortcoming and to develop a set of practical business recommendations is described in Chapter three. The crux of the methodology followed was to conduct an extensive literature review to identify current trends and best practices. The methodology used in during this report also yielded “hidden” opportunities based on the findings from the literature review and the focus group that was held as a result of these findings. The aim of the focus group was to supplement the approach as presented by Mulder (2010) with knowledge management principles that was identified by a group of well-trained and experienced employees. The employees are all members of the management team responsible for implementing and managing SHE within the organisation where the study was conducted. The detail of how the focus group was conducted, the development of the knowledge management approach and how the different knowledge maps evolved, resulted in the final agreed upon knowledge map, which is described in detail in Appendix C. In Chapter four, a comparison is made between what is presented based on the integrated approach by Mulder, and knowledge management principles. These results are also compared to the current SHE approach of a mining company. The analyses conducted are set out in detail in Chapter 4 of this report. Based on the findings and the gaps identified in Chapter 4, a set of business recommendations were made that could be considered to improve on the current SHE results as achieved by the mining organisation where the study was conducted. These results are practical and business orientated, based on the findings of the literature review and the focus group that was established to investigate ways of improving SHE at the mining operation. The results were presented in diagramme form, indicating how knowledge management principles should be included as a sixth leg into the approach suggested by Mulder. There were also a set of detail actions to be implemented to ensure that knowledge management is established and sustained in the organisation with specific focus on SHE and the SHE department. These recommendations were set out and clarified in Chapter five. In Chapter six a conclusion was drawn. Throughout the literature analysed, it was well argued that SHE is a very important focus area for any mining operation. This point was emphasised by the involvement from the stakeholders and the DMR that is currently stopping mining operations after serious accidents occur, resulting in millions of Rand lost in terms of revenue. It is also well established that managing SHE should be the core focus of any mining operation to ensure that they stay operational and maintain good public and investor image. To ensure that the required SHE results are achieved and maintained, the focus should be to reduce the risk right at the source. In the mining environment, this means managing SHE right at the coal face, (also referred to as the working face). It was also well argued that there are several ways of doing so and that as time has passed, methods of doing so has evolved through trial and error and through learning from the errors that were made. One crucial point to take note of is that this learning and improvement were not always captured because knowledge and knowledge management principles were never seen or used in the South African coal mining industry to improve on SHE results. Therefore, this research reports focuses on improving SHE by using the most recent and relevant approaches. These approaches were identified by conducting an in depth literature review identifying the most recent trends to manage SHE in high risk organisations. In the literature review, knowledge management principles were also identified as a key enabler of managing SHE. Combining knowledge management principles, with the other identified methods lead to the development of an integrated approach. The reasons why this is approached is supported by the author is that it is an approach that is practical and focussed. The principles can be applied within any business function and throughout the organisation and can lead to improved business results, not only in the SHE function. The integrated approach, as presented in this research report, is presented as a set of action plans that can be implemented throughout the organisation and across business functions.

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