Mining is the cornerstone of South Africa’s economy. In FY2021 the sector contributed R985,3-billion to the country’s GDP while creating and/or sustaining roughly 2,3-million direct and indirect jobs. It is thus essential to have digitally-driven health and safety solutions in place to keep the mines running optimally.

By Reinhard Burger, senior client partner at Decision Inc South Africa

Some of the areas where digitalisation can make an impact in health and safety include:

* Risk management;

* Contractor management;

* Document control;

* Process automation; and

* Data insights.

To guide the implementation, management, and support of these innovations, mining companies will often partner with trusted service providers enabling them to remain focused on their core business.

Decision Inc is one of these such companies and in the area of document management, has a solution called hiDocs, which speeds up the management of critical health and safety documents. This simple intervention removes the risk of non-compliance and with it, the hefty fines and potential mine closure that often accompany that.

No mine can afford to have its doors closed. Given the massive financial impact this would have on the business as well as potentially leaving thousands of people without jobs, it makes sense to invest in this area. And the mining industry is doing just that.

As mines start to apply the latest digital technologies to these critical areas, it becomes clear that a digital roadmap becomes an essential asset to guide modernisation efforts while mitigating the risk of non-compliance.

Automation done differently

Despite concerns that automation will replace human operators in mining, the value of automation lies in augmenting people’s skills.

By having automated workflows, centralised databases, automated notifications, and alerts together with a user-friendly interface, mines can streamline the creation, maintenance, and control of documents that are essential for compliance. This reduces the time spent searching for documents and will ensure that different divisions are all operating with the latest, standardised compliance documents.

Innovative digital solutions can also facilitate the generation, review, and management of policies, procedures, agreements, and templates that are relevant to the Mine Health & Safety Act. These digital platforms provide the mine with controlled access to the latest document versions. Ensuring that only the right people have access to these documents is made possible by assigning users to groups.

Once part of a group, users can create and review new documents together. With everything being digital, collaboration occurs easily and other users can be notified of any actions that are required to complete a document or process.

Managing risk

Central to automation and digitalisation are risk management approaches that give mines a holistic view of their risk. Only through knowing these risks can a mine mitigate and minimise the impact and these risks. This is best done through adopting a complete enterprise management risk capability.

An advantage of accessing template-driven documentation means mines can ensure conformity to standards, while the automated workflows facilitate the reviewal and approval of risks published. This delivers a secure environment that is accessible to all users across multiple channels.

Understanding first

Before implementing any digitalisation project, a service provider must spend time at the mine to understand its unique environment, requirements, and the objectives of the stakeholders. It is critical to understand the current business operations, rules, and end-user touchpoints to determine how the specific problems should be solved. This phase also assists the service provider to design “best user journeys and the required functionality.”

To do this, technology partners usually run workshops that involve the relevant parties. The objective of these workshops is to understand how to extract, document, and design the optimal solution architecture that is required to solve the specific problem. These workshops provide clients with a holistic view of the relevant stakeholders, their interactions and supporting materials for the processes, as well as the technology to be considered.

An experienced technology partner will bring unique intellectual capital to help mines and other businesses drive risk mitigation, compliance, and efficiency using sophisticated security mechanisms and operational insights. It’s as much about having experience as well as having a portfolio of solutions.

But in delivering these solutions, mines can reduce the risk of non-compliance, improve their productivity, and run more efficient operations. All this allows them to better serve their customers.