Interview: Samancor Chrome’s Group SHEQ Manager
John Botha discusses Samancor Chrome’s SHEQ management system and his areer choice, in an onsite video interview with Sheqafrica.com editor Edmond Furter in August 2012. To watch the video please click to visit the Sheqafrica.com Youtube page.
Profile of a Group SHEQ manager
John was raised in the Western Cape, attending Paarl Gymnasium and Worcester High School. His started an apprenticeship at Anglo American’s Welkom Gold Mine later Western Holdings Mine (WHM).
After qualifying as an artisan while still at WHM, he added mining experience to his resume by obtaining a blasting certificate. During this period he worked at conventional and trackless high speed development and participated in shaft sinking projects.
In the late 1980’s he entered safety and health practice as a Safety Officer and later as Safety and Health Co-ordinator at Vaal Reefs Mining Operations’ Business Services.
He later joined AVGOLD’s Target Division’s Mine at Allanridge as Risk Coordinator during the shaft development project phase.
After a obtaining a National Diploma in Safety Management, John Botha completed a BTech in Safety Management degree at the former Technicon SA. To these he added several management development courses in SHEQ.
His career also took him to French based Pechiney’s PEM Operations at Pietersburg Silicon Smelters as Health and Safety manager. During this period Alcan acquired Pechiney and he was fortunate to obtain and apply his S&H knowledge in their pyro metallurgical operations.
He was recruited by Samancor Chrome. His SHEQ work and successes is backed by excellent participation and safety leadership from top management.
A fatal event led to a career change
We asked John what made him decide to make a career change to SHEQ. “The turning point in my career choice was the day that I had to tell a rigger’s wife and children that their husband and father died at work. It was 7:30 in the morning.
“Three months later I went to check on progress with their compensation, and one of the boys, Ryan, said ‘Mommy, is this the uncle who killed my daddy? The boy connected me to the message and believed that I was guilty in the incident.
A SHEQ professional’s profile
Group SHEQ manager John Botha’s ‘brother’s keeper’ personality is evident in his lively interest in technology, geology, history and personal development. His approach to improving performance may be revealed in criteria he uses to make other SHEQ appointments.
“In psychometric testing for various positions, we found that production criteria do not apply to SHEQ skills, since the functions of SHEQ personnel are quite different”, Botha answers.
“Preferably, our SHEQ people are not involved in disciplinary procedures which should be a line function, they are rather focussed on selling our SHEQ values and the advantages of a passion for SHEQ.
“We should be regarding punitive measures in our disciplinary as the last resort but our approach should rather focus on the corrective part of it.” says Botha.
He acknowledges that SHEQ people are not generally popular but a popularity contest is something a good SHEQ person should not participate in.
It is not about being popular but about being the “conscience” and constantly reminding workers about the “correct thing to do”.
“Like good sales people, SHEQ personnel should not be personally affronted by initial failure, but rather use their knowledge, analysis, interpretation, persuasion and communication skills, to return again and again to their ‘market’ to demonstrate the advantages of good workplace Safety, Health, Environment and Quality behaviour.”
SHEQ behaviour is not the preserve of SHEQ appointees. “At Samancor Chrome, our audits are not ‘one man jobs’, but a layered line process that requires all workers to participate in.
“Everyone employed at Samancor Chrome has access to our SHEQ data and participates in our SHEQ Management systems. Further more d everyone employed at Samancor Chrome is provided with a Red Stop Card and is mandated by the CEO to use it as a “Brother’s Keeper” on grounds of intervening in SHEQ related downgrading activities.”
Production dropouts dumped in SHEQ
At their group SHEQ offices, Samancor Chrome’s group SHEQ manager, John Botha, talks frankly about the lack of SHEQ degrees, diplomas, skills, and prestige,
“ When it comes to the relative status of the SHEQ profession” says John, “ The big elephant in the room seems to be a general perception by some in several industries, that traditionally under-performing or ‘problematic’ supervisors could be ‘dumped’ in SHEQ jobs.
“This impacts negatively on the ability of our profession to attract talented individuals and the recognition that we deserve.”
“Well qualified and experienced SHEQ people are so rare, that some have become ’18 month job hoppers’.”
Good quality Safety people are extremely rare. Well trained and experienced SHEQ staff is so rare thet three of our newly skilled SHEQ learners were immediately poached when they completed their learnership period”, explains Botha.
Botha and his management and training colleagues have initiated several programmes to raise SHEQ skills levels. Internal learnerships also include external training through Advantage ACT.
“Our people in all divisions must now also successfully complete SHEQ training courses. Our line managers and supervisors own SHEQ, not just the SHEQ practitioners and representatives, so it is imperative that they gain the knowledge to support the on-site experience.”
Zero harm aspirations
John Botha supports the concept of zero harm. “Our targets are not based on losses, or reducing injuries. This operation used to run at a lost time injury frequency rate (LTIFR) above four, and Senior Managers at the time believed that it would remain at that level.
Botha joined the group seven and a half years ago. “Now we run at an LTIFR below two on both mines, and 1.5 at furnaces. We watch a number of leading and lagging indicators to inform our pro-active interventions, not just to report on losses.” Minor injuries are also reported and acted on.
“Our SHEQ energy is in tune with operational energy”, explains Botha. “We believe that recurring incidents are signs of an ‘out of control’ operation. Everyone owns Safety, and we focus on sustainable business, despite market cycles,” says Botha.
Samancor Chrome’s values are sustainable business, care for people, cost consciousness, and pride in achievements.
These values drive an integrated management system developed on site, involving supervisors in every aspect of SHEQ management.
“We analysed fatalities of the last 18 years and categorised root causes of our losses into 10 aspects, from which we developed fatal risk control protocols.”
These protocols are tangible in their procedures, standards, procurement, booklets, behaviour and corporate culture.
- Samancor Chrome operates mines, metallurgical furnaces, heavy engineering and logistics operations. Their 2012 motto is ‘Leading by example’.
- This interview is sponsored by Advantage ACT , a specialist SHEQ consultancy serving industrial operators on the African continent.
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