With South Africa’s mines scheduled to return to full staffing levels from June 1, some of the country’s largest employers now have the responsibility to ensure the safety of employees and actively manage the risk of COVID-19 infections from bringing operations to a standstill. The report of 30% of workers testing positive for coronavirus at AngloGold Ashanti’s Mponeng mine in Gauteng province highlights the very real danger of COVID-19 spreading like wildfire through the workforce.
According to Gys Kappers, CEO of Wyzetalk, managing these risks means daily employee screenings for possible symptoms and ensuring that ongoing risk management processes – in line with government regulation – are put in place. However, with many organisations’ screening procedures currently being paper-based, mines returning to full production are very likely to face severe bottlenecks while trying to bring employees back on site, which will result in a severe loss of productivity and revenue.
Kappers explains that employees entering mining sites are required to complete screening surveys to determine if they are showing any symptoms, and have their temperatures measured before they are allowed on site. “We are increasingly seeing this procedure resulting in really long queues of workers waiting to enter the job site. At the mines where a portion of production has already started, it is now not uncommon to see employees queuing at the gate from very early hours of the morning, which, in winter especially, increases health risks to the workforce as well as fatigue.”
He says that digitalisation is key to reducing the impact of these types of challenges, allowing mining operations to fulfill their responsibility towards their employees. “Something that we have been able to do for our own clients is to make the screening survey questions available to employees on our online platform. Workers are able to answer the relevant questions on their mobile devices before coming to work. We have also done some technical integration with our clients’ systems so that they can immediately access the information captured from the surveys, for their own records and reporting requirements. This means that the only measure required onsite would be to take temperatures.”
Kappers adds that conducting screening with the aid of digital platforms also gives employers a significant amount of freedom in how they optimise the process. “One can link the survey to digital scanning systems to provide a fully automated solution. Some of our clients have already tied the digital platform to their clock-in system, so that employee access cards can automatically be blocked until their daily screening has been completed. Further to that, businesses can also use the system to alert individual employees when they need to seek treatment, based on their survey scores.”
He says that mining companies have been pro-active in their approach. “Many of our clients have set up isolation centres and are using our platform to ensure that employees keep their information updated – which is critically important for contact tracing. They are also using it to share vital safety information. It’s a great example of how digital engagement platforms can assist mines in complying with regulations, as well as going the extra mile to ensure employee safety. In addition, fast-tracking and improving processes like screening ultimately saves time, positively impacting a mine’s productivity and bottom line,” Kappers concludes.