Avocet recognises that its exploration and mining activities have the potential to impact directly and indirectly on the safety and health of our neighbouring communities as well as the wider environment. The Company is committed to providing a safe, healthy and sustainable environment for all our employees, contractors and neighbours.
At the Inata gold mine, safety and health governance is managed by the Occupational Safety and Health Committee and the Management Safety Committee. Both committees meet regularly to discuss all aspects of safety, and where necessary agree appropriate remedial actions. The committees also review policies and procedures, assess serious incidents, establish appropriate and timely responses, and ensure ongoing compliance with both Burkina Faso law as well as international best practice.
During 2014 the Safety, Health and Environment departments were merged to create a single Safety, Health and Environment Department with the intent of delivering a more integrated service to the mine. This in part reflects the joined up thinking delivered from the Safety, Health, Environment and Community (‘SHEC’) Committee of Avocet’s Board of Directors. This committee, established in 2012, is responsible for ensuring that appropriate systems and resources are in place to ensure that all employees have a safe and healthy environment in which to work.
Avocet recognises the importance of training and education to maintaining a continued high level of safety and environmental performance. All employees and contractors undertake a comprehensive induction programme and an ongoing programme of training is in place to ensure awareness levels are maintained. Training is based on a fixed syllabus for all employees as well as bespoke training developed where requested by departmental managers. This training addresses areas for improvement that are identified during regular internal inspections.
Safety focus
There were no Lost Time Incidents (LTI) in 2014. This represents a considerable achievement, and management and staff at all levels of the organisation are proud of this. By the end of the year, the mine had reached 458 LTI free days which equated to 4.38 million man hours. Inata staff recognise the importance of avoiding complacency in this area, and during 2014 the Safety Team reviewed and fully revised the pillars of the mine’s safety training programme. This updated package was rolled out throughout the year to all staff as part of their annual refresher training. A monthly management team inspection of different work areas was initiated, to underline to all the commitment of the site management team to safety.
An LTI-free year would be a commendable success in normal operating conditions, but achieving this in the context of constructing and commissioning the Carbon Blinding Circuit, with a significant amount of the work being completed in the difficult conditions generated by the rainy season, was all the more impressive.
Avocet management strongly believes that its workers should go home to their families uninjured at the end of the day and continuously promotes safety awareness, action and individual responsibility at all levels of the organisation. This awareness is delivered through a combination of proactive and reactive measures. General and role specific safety training packages are delivered to all site staff and visitors, which are then reinforced through toolbox talks as well as weekly and monthly safety meetings within various departments. Management also investigates all incidents and near misses thoroughly, identifying the root causes, and ensuring that the team develop, implement and communicate the necessary corrective actions. The following activities were undertaken during 2014:
1,351 induction or specialist training sessions for SMB staff, contractors, and visitors which included delivery of a general safety refresher programme to the workforce;
184 unannounced workplace inspections, involving both workers and management, designed to assess compliance with safety best practices and policies, and where appropriate, identifying corrective action plans;
159 safety meetings, attended by workers, supervisors and management, including contractors’ representatives, which provide a forum at which ongoing and emerging issues and concerns can be discussed, and solutions developed; and
11 management led Occupational Safety and Health Committee meetings and 3 management workplace walkabouts.
In addition to these general safety meetings and inspections, the following programmes continued through the year to reduce risk in areas where specific hazards have been identified:
Fire drills, particularly around flammable materials such as the fuel storage area;
Fire prevention and firefighting training delivered by the National Fire Brigade;
Driver training, focussing on both defensive and offensive driving techniques, as well as a review and implementation of an enhanced Road Safety Policy; and
Emergency Response Team training, focusing on first aid and basic firefighting techniques – this year a series of desk based scenarios were also played out to develop the team’s response planning.
2014 was a very challenging year across West Africa with the rise and spread of Ebola. Although Burkina Faso has not recorded any cases of Ebola, Inata’s close proximity to the Mali border, along with the fact that many of its expatriate workers are from affected countries, necessitated the development and implementation of an Ebola Preparedness plan. The plan was developed in consultation with national medical services and included an extensive awareness raising programme for the workforce, the construction of a new isolation area at our site clinic, and the implementation of a risk-based, escalating response Action Matrix.
As in previous years, considerable effort went into controlling mosquito populations, and therefore reducing the malaria incidence rate. Control strategies included the continuation of our Internal Residual Spraying (IRS) regime as well as fogging around accommodation camps and in local villages. Individual action was also emphasised under the slogan ‘Cover Up/Cream-Up’. The majority of cases reported related to rotational national workers who live far from the mine who split their time between our sites, where we can implement mosquito control measures, and their own homes, where we cannot.
Gastro-intestinal illnesses at site are generally caused by lapses in hygiene and subsequent exposure to contaminated food or drink. We continue to push the message that ‘hygiene is good for you’, whilst continuing to enforce policies requiring all staff to observe basic hygiene procedures before entering food canteens, as well as increasing compliance requirements for catering staff in food preparation areas. During 2014, a total of 56 inspections were undertaken, specifically targeting wash rooms, restaurants, and kitchen areas, to identify areas of non-compliance.
The risk of AIDS is taken very seriously at site, and although local infection rates are low compared to many sub-Saharan regions, all employees are encouraged to undergo voluntary HIV testing. Cultural sensitivities are recognised in this matter, and education and testing are all offered anonymously and discreetly.
The safety of our employees and contractors is paramount to Avocet. There were no Lost Time Incidents (LTI) in 2014. This represents a considerable achievement, and management and staff at all levels of the organisation are proud of this.
In November 2011, Avocet became a signatory to the ICMC. The ICMC is an industry voluntary program for gold mining companies. It focuses exclusively on the safe management of cyanide and cyanidation mill tailings and leach solutions.
Avocet has become a Supporting Company of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). The EITI is a coalition of governments, companies and civil society which sets a global standard for managing the transparency of revenues from natural resources.