In recent months, several IM4DC Fellows have undertaken extended activities in Australia to conduct research and build knowledge in key aspects of mining for development.
One such Fellow is Dr Sizwe Phakathi, Deputy Head: Safety and Sustainable Development with the Chamber of Mines of South Africa. Sizwe travelled to Perth, Western Australia to undertake a Fellowship with the Centre for Safety at The University of Western Australia to conduct research on safety leadership and culture.
IM4DC E-News spoke to Sizwe:
1. What were you hoping to achieve by participating in the IM4DC Fellowship Program?
I was hoping to develop a collaborative relationship with the Centre for Safety based on the safety data and research I have conducted in a South African mining context as this relates to a larger project of the Centre focusing on ‘Benchmarking the Status of Safety Beliefs, Practices and Risks in Developing Countries’. Furthermore, my hope was to learn more about the research programmes of the Centre and how my research work on South African mines relates to other research programmes of the Centre, such as operational safety culture and OHS leadership. Moreover I wanted to learn about the models that the Centre uses to analyse safety related research data such as the Fitness to Operate (FTO) model or the Safety Capability Model.
2. What knowledge and skills did you expect to gain from this experience? Did they meet your expectations?
I expected to learn about the quantitative design of the International Safety Survey Tool that was used to gather safety data from the selected developing countries as I am more on the qualitative side of research. So gaining some skills on coding research data quantitatively was my expectation as in most cases I work with qualitative research data that I analyse qualitatively. However, the Research Team at the Centre for Safety was also grateful of hosting somebody with a strong qualitative research background and who has collected rich qualitative research data that they felt would complement and further enhance the design of the International Safety Survey if it were to be rolled out to a South African context.
As far as collaboration and suggestions made by the Research Team at the Centre for Safety on my qualitative safety research data, my expectations were met. However, I had hoped that there would be an immediate implementation plan of furthering the International Safety Survey on Benchmarking the Status of Safety Beliefs, Practices and Risks in a South African context. This expectation was not met due to lack of funding arising from the looming closure of the IM4DC at the end of June 2015.
Overall, it was a fruitful Fellowship. I left the Centre for Safety with a clear plan of publishing my qualitative safety research data and the Research Team at the Centre for Safety was helpful in providing useful guidance on this. We have agreed with the Centre that we work on formalising my association with the Centre for Safety at The University of Western Australia and that we will look for funding that will cement our working relationship. As I work with my qualitative research data, I will be identifying key themes that could feed to the International Safety Survey and other research programmes of the Centre for Safety and Accelerated Learning Laboratory. Dr Daniela Andrei, the Research Manager at the Centre for Safety, will prepare an action plan of my collaboration with the Centre for Safety and Accelerated Learning Laboratory in due course.
3. Did you maintain professional working relationships with Australian people or institutions before you started the Fellowship? Or do you plan too?
I certainly did maintain professional working relationships with Australian people and institutions before and after the Fellowship started. For example, the two-day Mining for Development Alumni Forum and Conference provided me with a great opportunity to meet other experts, scholars and researchers based at the Universities of Western Australia and Queensland. I met interesting people such as Professor David Cliff of The University of Queensland working closely with Professor Jim Joy on sustainable design, implementation and management of safety programmes in Australian mines. Professor Cliff has since sent me a research document on critical control management of health and safety in mining operations developed by ACARP. This document is critically important to the work I am facilitating in the South African mining industry on the management of health and safety critical controls that have a greater propensity of culminating in catastrophic events.
The Director of the IM4DC, Ian Satchwell introduced me to the Deputy CEO of the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia, Nicole Roocke, who subsequently linked me with her staff to set up a meeting to discuss various issues pertaining to workplace health and safety in Western Australian and South African mines. My meeting with the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia was enlightening in that there was a plan to utilise the health and safety data submitted by mining companies to the regulator of mines department through institutions such as the Centre for Safety. This is an encouraging initiative that seeks to ensure that the mining industry of Western Australia learns from incidents for OHS improvement. South Africa can learn a lot from such an initiative as it has a similar type of system of OHS data reporting by mining companies to the regulator. I did express my wish to be involved in such as an initiative from a comparative perspective where there could be collaborative opportunities to learn how the OHS data from the Western Australian regulator of mines would be analysed by university-based/research industry based experts in order to ensure that a similar exercise could be done with the South African mine health and safety data.
I was particularly pleased to know of the biennial Workplace Diversity Surveys conducted by the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia to ensure that, amongst others, women and workforce groups are effectively integrated in the workplace. This workplace programme relates to the implementation of one of the pillars of the Culture Transformation Framework (CTF) for the South African mining sector approved by the tripartite stakeholders from Business, Government and Organised Labour at the Mine Health and Safety Summit on 19 November 2014. My work on South African mines also entails facilitating effective implementation of the South African mining industry’s Culture Transformation Framework (CTF) including the pillar that focuses in Workplace Diversity Management. I will learn a lot from the outcomes of the biennial Diversity Surveys of the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia.
Moreover, I have expressed my wish to participate in the 2015 Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Conference that the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia will be organising in August 2015. The Manager of Workplace Health and Safety at the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of the Western Australia, Ms Adrienne LaBombard, indicated that Professor Jim Joy has been invited as one of the speakers at the conference and promised that they will keep my name in the mailing list for all conference related information. I would like to attend this conference to learn from what the Western Australian mining companies and government are doing to improve OHS in a manner that ensures every mine employee returns from work unharmed every day. This is indeed a critically important OHS conference to attend given the serious challenge of high number of worker fatalities and occupational diseases on South African mines and other mining companies on the African continent.
4. How do you plan to maintain your relationship with IM4DC and the Centre for Safety, UWA when you return to South Africa?
I plan to maintain my relationship with the IM4DC through completion of my Return to Work Plan and keeping the Coordinator of the IM4DC Alumni network informed of the progress I make and successes achieved. I have already a developed a relationship with the Centre for Safety and I plan to maintain this relationship through collaborating with the Centre by sharing my qualitative research data with the Centre and keep then posted of the progress made with publication of my research data in peer-reviewed journal papers. The action plan of my collaboration with the Centre for Safety is one of the ways through which I will maintain my relationship with the IM4DC, the Centre for Safety and Accelerated Learning Laboratory at The University of Western Australia. I am also planning for a longer visit at the Centre for Safety as there is no doubt that my research work and that of the Centre for Safety is of the mutually-beneficial. Given the closure of the IM4DC at the end of June 2015, Professor Mark Griffin has agreed to look at other avenues for funding that will sustain my research collaboration with the Centre for Safety and Accelerated Learning Laboratory at The University of Western Australia. I am also planning to look for funding from South Africa that supports research collaboration and that will allow me to maintain and sustain my relationship with the IM4DC and the Centre for Safety as there is a strong case for collaboration given the synergies between my work and that of the Centre for Safety.
I learnt during my Fellowship at the Centre for Safety that my application for a small grant to conduct research on the safety challenges of informal and artisanal coal miners in a peri-urban community in South Africa was successfully awarded the grant by the Australian Awards (Africa). I have agreed with the Centre for Safety that there will be scope to collaborate on the design of the questionnaire for this safety research to include questions relating to safety beliefs and risks.
5. How do you plan to apply your learning’s on return to your home country?
My immediate plan is to apply the model used by the Centre for Safety such as Fitness to Operate (FTO) and Safety Capability Model in the analysis of my rich qualitative research data from which I intend writing up few papers for journal publications. I am also planning to use the model to enhance my understanding and that of my colleagues of a variety of factors influencing the OHS performance of the South African mining sector.
6. Are there any further comments you would like to make about your time in the IM4DC Fellowship program?
This was a short but fruitful Fellowship. I would like to come back for a longer period of time to focus on learning more about the quantitative analysis of large set of data on benchmarking the status of safety beliefs, practices and risks in developing countries that incorporate data from the South African mining industry. It would also be great to attend and learn from the presentations and papers to be delivered at the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Conference organised by the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia in August 2015. The implementation of the action plan arising from my 2015 Fellowship will lead to a number of outcomes which will deepen my collaboration and partnership with the Centre for Safety at The University of Western Australia and hopefully other research partners within Australia, Africa and across the globe.