Safety culture in the SA mining industry

A safety culture survey and analysis of the safety culture of the South African mining industry, initiated by The Mine Health and Safety Council’s research arm, SIMRAC, was carried out by SAFEmap and completed in April 2005. 
The purpose of the survey was to identify strategic opportunities and a direction for the mining industry’s safety effort. This was to be done by analysing the major strengths and weaknesses in the work culture of mines in South Africa.  A secondary objective was to make comparisons with other international mining industries.  A total of 14 mines participated, all selected to represent a stratified sample of the industry. 
The surveys were conducted during the period April 2004 – April 2005.  Surveys were conducted in group sessions, using the eProfile survey technology.  A total of 8991 employees participated in the survey. 
The SAFEmap safety culture model used in the survey consists of 41 factors, arranged in eight categories of employee perceptions of the key factors of Organisation, Management, Supervision, Management Processes and Safety Systems, as well as Job, Team and Individual Factors. 
The following summary of conclusions is made from the survey results:  
  • Overall, the safety and health culture in the SA Mining Industry is significantly more negative than that of the Australian and International benchmarks;
  • All levels, except the Specialist group record more negative trends than the benchmarks;
  • The SA Mining Industry is driven primarily by a systems and compliance based culture;
  • Mines with a more positive historical performance recorded a more positive safety and health culture than those mines with a poorer historical performance;
  • Large differences in the safety and health culture between the mines exist;
  • The Gold Mining sector records a slight but statistically significantly negative trend when compared to the other sectors;
  • Smaller Mines recorded more positive trends in the safety and health culture than the larger mines.


Based on the survey results, the following summary of recommendations is made:  
  • Additional focus on the role of the safety and health culture in the industry be pursued;
  • Emphasis be made on creating a learning culture for safety and health in the industry;
  • There should be a progression from a systems and compliance driven culture;
  • Attention be given to the scope and nature of safety and health consultation;
  • A changing role of leadership in the industry be pursued;
  • Attempts be made to restructure large mines to be managed as smaller mines;
  • The role of government and regulators to facilitate a change in the safety and health culture;
  • That the report be distributed widely in the industry. 
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