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ICMM Report: Members’ safety performance in 2021

29 august 2022

The International Council of Metals and Mining [ICMM] published a report recently that analysis the safety performance of its members in 2021. The report reveals that despite the industry’s focus on operational, cultural and leadership transformation that has reduced fatalities in recent years it has still not achieved the goal of zero harm.

According to ICMM, the organization began collating and publishing company members’ safety data in 2012 to encourage information and knowledge-sharing and catalyze learning across the industry. Since 2012, ICMM has measured and disclosed the safety performance of its members. This benchmarking report aimed to show members’ progress in their goal of eliminating fatalities.

The report also provides safety performance data of ICMM members in 2021, in line with ICMM’s Health and Safety Performance Indicators.

As ICMM members, companies are required to report their safety data in their annual sustainability reports in line with Global Reporting Indicators (GRI) requirements. Comparing these data sets can be challenging due to differences in reporting criteria. In some cases, because of differences in jurisdictional or institutional reporting requirements, reporting periods or criteria by which injuries are recorded datasets may not be directly comparable.

By collating ICMM company member data using a consistent reporting period like calendar based versus various financial years and unifying it under a common set of indicators, we can present it coherently. This safety data continues to play an important role in informing leadership decisions and health and safety strategies. Ongoing analysis of incidents and their associated root causes will continue to inform innovative and impactful approaches to improving safety performance across the industry.

Historically, ICMM has compiled and published members’ safety performance data using Fatality and Total Recordable Injury (TRI) numbers and frequency rates as primary measures. However, ICMM is now reviewing which metrics most effectively help companies and their stakeholders achieve fatality elimination.

ICMM report also provides an overview of ICMM member safety performance concerning fatalities and injuries. 43 fatalities occurred across ICMM company members in 2021. This number compares to 44 in 2020 and 287 in 2019 (the total of 287 in 2019 includes the 250 workers who died in the Brumadinho tailings dam collapse). Overall, in 2021 there was a 7 per cent increase in the total hours worked compared to 2020, and a 2.5 per cent decrease in the number of incidents that resulted in a fatality. This has resulted in a decrease in the Fatality Frequency Rate (FFR).

There were three incidents which resulted in more than one fatality, which is equal to the number of multiple fatality incidents in 2020. The data shows a decrease in the fatalities since 2016 (if the tailing dam collapse of 2019 is not considered) but appears to have levelled off in the last two years.

The hazard posed by vehicles is common across the industry since it is not dependent on geography, or the commodity being produced. As part of ICMM’s collaborative Innovation for Cleaner Safer Vehicle (ICSV) initiative, members are working in partnership with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to identify and promote solutions including collision avoidance technology, process improvements and training capable of eliminating fatalities from vehicle interactions. In addition to mobile equipment being the greatest cause of fatalities, it is also the most geographically spread, across seven countries.

The next highest cause of fatalities is the ‘fall of ground’. This is a reversal of the data seen in 2020 where ‘fall of ground’ was the most prevalent incident. 27 fatalities occurred in underground working, 5 in open pit and 11 in other processes.

Fall of ground incidents can be Induced or intentional, meaning rock falls are caused by the mining method such as caving rock behind a longwall face, collapsing roof in a retreat room-and-pillar mine or caving rock in a block-caving hard rock mine; Unplanned or unintentional (e.g., earthquake), meaning any rock fall in mine workings where humans could be present.

Fall of ground incidents accounted for 29.6 per cent of underground working fatalities. The remaining fatalities in underground working are from causes similar to open pit and other processes which suggest that a common approach to fatality prevention across all mining operations is feasible.

The ICMM report shows that of the eight fall of ground fatalities recorded, six occurred in South Africa. Injury from fall of ground incidents is the most common occupational injury in the South African mining industry due to a prevalence of deep high-stress mines in the country …the deepest mines can extend 3,500m below the surface. The Minerals Council South Africa has focused its efforts on fall of ground incidents, and this could be a driver in the reduction of these fatalities…Twenty-two (51%) of the 43 fatalities occurred in South Africa (27 in total across the African continent).

Regarding the number of fatalities by hazard between 2017 and 2021, the year-on-year comparison (excluding the very high number of deaths in 2019 due to the Brumadinho tailings dam collapse shown under the structural failure category) shows a variable pattern of fatalities due to a range of causes, such as fall of ground and mobile equipment. This suggests that action to target foundational components of a robust safety culture such as safety leadership and human performance could be more effective at addressing the underlying causes of the fatalities.

The country with the highest number of fatalities in 2021 was South Africa (22), followed by the United States (4) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (3). However, in terms of Fatality Frequency Rates, the data shows Côte d'Ivoire with the highest levels (0.163), which is due to the relatively low number of hours worked in the country (6,128,213 hours). Bolivia (0.123 per 8,133,244 hours worked) and Japan (0.108 per 18,586,908 hours worked) have the second and third highest rates, respectively. The continent with the highest number of fatalities was Africa, accounting for 63 per cent of the total fatalities across ICMM members in 2021. South America was the next highest followed by North America.

Critical controls or barriers are the actions taken to prevent hazards from developing into dangerous events. Where critical controls are missing, e.g., where full risk assessment and management have not been completed, there is no barrier to prevent incidents from happening. Where controls are in place but not executed, e.g., where standard procedures are not followed, incidents can also happen. Maintaining effective controls is a core activity in risk management. The report shows that the issues around critical control design and critical control execution accounted for 86 per cent of fatalities. Critical controls are crucial to preventing an event or mitigating the consequences of an event.

ICMM claims it has been working with members to share the importance of this and approaches to improve critical controls to reduce fatalities, and it will remain the main focus of its work going forward.

According to the ICMM report, the injury rate for companies between 2012 and 2021 was a 5 per cent increase in the number of total recordable injuries from 6,997 in 2020 to 7,355 in 2021. Due to the higher hours worked there was a reduction in the overall injury rate from 2.94 in 2020 to 2.90 in 2021. Sibanye Stillwater recorded 16 incidents which caused 20 fatalities, 46 per cent of total fatalities. Eleven ICMM members (42%) recorded no fatalities during 2021.

Responding to key industry challenges, ICMM’s new three-year strategy is focused on ambitious collective action. In health and safety, the industry will work together to explore the root causes of why harm continues to occur and hunt for the next step change to make zero harm a reality.

ICMM priorities for the 2022-2024 strategy cycle are:

Strengthen leadership position beyond guidance: ICMM members have an unwavering commitment to the health and safety of their workers and work unceasingly to eliminate fatalities and preventable injuries. ICMM will continue to encourage and facilitate knowledge sharing, using lessons learned from failure to help prevent future fatalities, and explore innovative approaches to health and safety controls with technology providers, OEMs and academic institutions. ICMM will also explore innovations related to human performance; and it will promote operational and technical innovations: ICMM’s Innovation for Cleaner, Safer Vehicles (ICSV) initiative brings together ICMM members and some of the world’s largest OEMs, in a non-competitive space, to accelerate the development of a new generation of mining vehicles that will minimise the operational impact of diesel exhaust and make vehicle collision avoidance technology available to mining companies by 2025.

To this end, ICMM is supporting companies in solving industry-level issues and pursuing operational and technical innovations; it aligns on new and more balanced collective metrics as monitoring and reporting on occupational health and safety indicators play an important part in driving performance improvement. ICMM is working together to define appropriate occupational health performance data collection and reporting parameters, based on leading performance indicators (including high potential incidents (HPIs), fatalities, serious incidents, and other indicators).

As per ICMM’s report, 43 people from ICMM company members lost their lives at work in 2021. The organization’s new three-year strategy is focused on ambitious collective action. And, in health and safety, ICMM will work to explore the root causes of why harm continues to occur and hunt for the next step change to make zero harm a reality.

Aruna Gaitonde, Editor in Chief of the Asian Bureau, Rough&Polished