Safe operations

Safety is a core value for Rio Tinto and Rössing Uranium as encapsulated by the words of Rio Tinto chief executive, J-S Jacques, who stated: “We must check that it is safe to start work, remain vigilant to hazards and speak up if something is not safe. This is a shared responsibility — to ourselves, to our families and friends and to each other.”

We continued to build on our safety performance and are proud to have ended the 2017 year with an improvement in our All-injury Frequency Rate of over 50 per cent compared with the previous year.

The mine recorded an All-injury Frequency Rate (AIFR) of 0.39 for the year, against a target of 0.67. This AIFR is the best result achieved in the last ten years (see Figures 9 and 10 at the bottom of this page). The mine had eight months with no recordable injuries reported — an indication that zero harm is achievable.

The following injuries occurred during the 2017 reporting period:

  • Lost-day injuries: three (a reduction of two compared with 2016).
  • Medical treatment cases: four (a reduction of six compared with 2016).
  • Incidents requiring basic first aid: 28 (a reduction of one compared with 2016).

Warehouse officer, Gaston September, at the Critical risk signboard at the mine's central store. Our Critical risk management (CRM) programme aims to create a fatality-free working environment for our employees and contractors. CRM boards are placed strategically on the mine site to serve as a constant reminder of risk areas.


The safety of our people remains key in everything we do. We made great strides in reducing the number of potentially fatal incidents and improved our All-injury Frequency Rate with 50 per cent compared with the previous year.

The mine experienced three potentially fatal incidents (PFIs) which is four less than the seven PFIs that occurred in 2016.

Highlights in our safety management during 2017 included the following:

  • A safety team from Rio Tinto carried out a safety diagnostic review of our existing systems and culture. They conducted workshops with a cross-section of our employees and contractors and thereafter provided us with a number of examples to further improve our safety record. A follow-up review was conducted six months later.
  • A sectional housekeeping competition was held, driven by OHSE representatives. The purpose was to improve general housekeeping around the mine site, as well as to install a sense of pride in individual workshops. The competition took place every quarter and the winners were presented with tokens of appreciation at a prize-giving ceremony.
  • Working at heights is one of our critical risks. During the year an in-depth review of all our tasks involving working at heights was conducted, which provided opportunities to implement a number of improvements, for example implementing a work-atheights permiting system.
  • We launched a training zone, an area that highlights some of the potential hazards which can be experienced in our working environment. The area is used during annual inductions as an education and awareness tool to demonstrate to employees and contractors specific hazards, such as damaged lifting equipment, waste segregation practices and electrical safety devices.
  • Focus group meetings were held with small teams to go through serious incident scenarios which have occurred within the Rio Tinto Group to discuss findings. This ensured that key lessons were communicated in a more sustainable manner in an attempt to prevent such incidents from happening again.
  • No major safety issues were identified during the Business Conformance Audit (BCA). This is an audit carried out every two years by a Rio Tinto team and covers all of our HSEC standards.
  • External auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers conducted a sustainability development assurance audit, evaluating how we capture and record our injury-classification data. No negative findings were recorded.
  • Fundamentals of Process Safety training was provided to key personnel involved in our Process safety management (PSM) system. PSM focuses on the low probability/high consequence incidents, for example fires or explosions.
  • The Rio Tinto Group experienced a serious incident involving rail operations in one of its mining operations. Post-incident evaluation led to a group-wide rail safety assessment and gap analysis, leading to new procedure on how rail operations are to be conducted worldwide. Rössing made good improvements and benefited greatly from this process.
  • We achieved a Critical risk management (CRM) score of 3.14 against the target score of 3.00 which is an improvement on the target score.
  • The Rössing Uranium safety team actively participated in the Chamber of Mines of Namibia's Safety Committee in 2017.

Although we made great strides in reducing the AIFR, the number and severity of injuries and reducing the number of PFIs, we are still injuring employees and contractors. This is not in line with our goal of zero harm which is that everyone goes home safe and healthy at the end of each working shift.

To enable us to achieve our goal of creating and sustaining a safe, caring workplace, the following will be amongst the focus items during 2018:

  • achieve the CRM target score of 4.00 for the sustaining phase of the fatality elimination methodology;
  • conduct a gap analysis to determine how our procedure related to the transport of people (focusing specifically on vehicles able to transport nine or more people) should be adapted to align with the Rio Tinto C3 Vehicles and Driving standard;
  • implement a new explosives procedure;
  • carry out a review of all tasks involving working on or close to live equipment, which will provide opportunities to reduce the amount of live work carried out, for example perhaps by use of technology distancing devices to remove the person from the hazards;
  • review our high consequence/low probability risks and engineering those risks out as far as reasonably practical;
  • develop and provide PSM training to all levels of the business;
  • continue with the safety initiatives started during 2017; and
  • review our HSEC training methodology to improve efficiency.