Our client, a large South African gold mining company, was experiencing an unacceptably high level of Lost Time Injuries (LTIs) and fatalities. Previous safety audits, focusing mainly on compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Services standard (OHSAS 18001), had been discredited to some extent because strong performance in the audit (‘looking good on paper’) had not translated into better safety performance on the ground. The company recognised that a different approach to auditing and evaluating its safety practices was required; one which acknowledged that understanding compliance and adherence to standards is necessary, but is not on its own sufficient to explain what is driving safety behaviour and, ultimately, safety outcomes. 

Key insights from the Safety Wiring audit

  • The audit identified significant opportunities to improve the company’s Safety Wiring at the most fundamental, Safety Strategy level of the Safety Wiring pyramid:
    • The company was only targeting and measuring lagging indicators and thus had essentially a reactive strategy, measuring what has already occurred instead of focusing on the factors they could manage and impact to drive safety outcomes i.e. leading indicators 
    • As a consequence, while the Safety Wiring was often good around lagging indicators, there was insufficient focus in the remainder of Safety Wiring pyramid on leading indicators
    • There was thus a need to articulate and communicate a new Safety Strategy, using both leading and lagging indicators
    • The first step in articulating the new, proactive Safety Strategy was the identification of critical or ‘fatal’ risks, and relevant leading indicators for these risks
    • However, articulating a new, proactive strategy, while necessary, would not be sufficient to change safety behaviour
  • To support and sustain execution of the new Safety Strategy, it was essential to address the remaining layers of the Safety Wiring Pyramid:
    • Safety Disciplines: Define and drive compliance to the standard operating procedures (SOPs) related to critical risks across the group
    • Alignment and Motivation: Include leading safety indicators explicitly in role descriptions, individual KPIs and remuneration and reward systems
    • Sustaining Disciplines: Hold individuals to account through regular reviews of safety performance (i.e. both leading and lagging indicators and agreed safety actions) in the form of Results-Actions-Review (RAR) meetings
    • Continuous Improvement: Implement a structured, internal continuous improvement process which measures leading and lagging indicators, prioritises areas of improvement, sets improvement targets, identifies specific improvement ideas and tracks their implementation and impact
    • Visible Safety Leadership: Change visible felt leadership visits to become more structured, focused on critical risks, leading indicators discussed and deviations are noted and addressed