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LABOUR PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
12 September 2006
SASOL SAFETY REVIEW: BRIEFING
Chairperson: Ms O R Kasienyane (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Safety at Sasol: presentation
Sasol briefed the Committee on safety management initiatives, based primarily on findings by DuPont, which is a US-based firm commissioned by Sasol to review all safety procedures and initiatives. The Committee strongly emphasised the need for effective safety management within the organisation, and agreed that employee attitudes were the most important tools for reform. The Committee felt that training and education were critically important in reforming employee safety attitudes, and also insisted that all safety procedures and standards be applied consistently within the company. It was maintained that the responsibility for safety was not the job of an individual, but was rather the collective responsibility of all Sasol management. The Committee commended Sasol on its achievements thus far, particularly the company’s HIV/AIDS initiatives.
Briefing by Sasol on the Key Findings and Recommendation from the External Process Safety Management Review of Sasol Operations
In opening the presentation, Mr Maurice Radebe (Managing Director: Sasol Fuels Marketing) emphasized Sasol’s commitment to ensuring safety in the workplace. He went on to express Sasol’s regret about the accident in September 2004, which occurred when an explosion at a plant caused many injuries and fatalities. He mentioned that this accident resulted in a major re-focus on safety within the Sasol working environment, and he also informed the Committee that safety has been added as a sixth principle to Sasol’s original five core principles. After the accident Sasol commissioned DuPont to review Sasol’s safety standards and procedures. The first report was made available in May 2005, and a second report was released in May this year. In the reports, Sasol was commended on its achievements thus far, and was encouraged to improve where possible. The presentation covered the topics of Sasol’s safety, health and environment framework; safety record; benchmarking of safety performance; governance and organization; as well as safety improvement plans and the DuPont’s safety reviews. The September 2004 Accident Trust Fund as well as Sasol’s HIV/AIDS initiatives were introduced to the Committee and were explained by the respective representatives. Throughout the presentation Mr Mike Rose (Head of Sasol Safety, Health and Environment (SHE)) and Mr Radebe emphasized Sasol’s commitment to continued employee education and training, as well as to the importance of altering the mindsets of all employees with regards to safety. It was further maintained that Sasol Management was collectively responsible for ensuring safety in the workplace, and that the issue of safety was not the responsibility of one individual.
Mr Rose reiterated that the recent report alleging that Sasol had recently had two fatalities in a plant accident was inaccurate and unfounded.
The Chair asked what disciplinary steps, if any, were taken against offending employees or contractors. She enquired why DuPont had been specifically chosen by Sasol to perform the reviews, and asked why a South African company had not been preferred in this regard.
Mr G Anthony (ANC) asked whether safety and health standards were being applied consistently, and also asked how Sasol managed “near misses”. He remarked, with reference to the involvement of trade unions in the Accident Trust Fund, that Sasol should attempt to include trade unions to a greater extent in so far as implementation of safety regulations was concerned. Mr Anthony enquired whether Sasol has met with trade unions to implement and discuss safety and training programmes at lower levels in Sasol’s management, and also asked whether Sasol has implemented induction programmes. He stated that the presentation had been very clear in indicating the benchmarking process, and concluded by suggesting that the stakeholders also be more involved in so far as the trust was concerned.
Mr S Siboza (ANC) asked how long the contractors’ training lasted, and also expressed his concern as to the Trust stakeholder representation, which he felt was not representative. He also asked how long the claims process lasted, from the application stage until the actual payment of the claim.
Ms S Rajbally (MF) asked for clarification as to the use of Recordable Case Rates (RCR) in so far as safety targets are concerned. She also asked whether, prior to the 2004 accident, any safety precautions were in place, and if so, what went wrong in this regard. Ms Rajbally asked whether Sasol has any internal department through which employees can institute a claim, and also inquired whether Sasol employees have any separate employment insurance. With respect to the aftercare facility provided by Sasol, Ms Rajbally asked whether this facility was exclusively for the use of Sasol employees.
Ms H Weber (DA) inquired whether the Trust Fund was contributed to by Sasol employees or whether it is funded solely by Sasol. Also, with regard the supply of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs by Sasol, Ms Weber asked whether Sasol funded this initiative itself.
Mr L D Maduna (ANC) asked what Sasol’s workplace safety record was like before May 2005 when Sasol incorporated safety as a core principle. He also asked whether there was a defined budget to drive safety development at Sasol. Mr Maduna also inquired about the degree of cooperation prevalent between plant foremen and workers at ground level. He also felt that, in so far as the relationship between these individuals is concerned, the shifting of blame with regards to lack of safety compliance was potentially problematic. He also asked, in so far as safety compliance is concerned, what the causes of the September 2004 accident had been.
Mr M J G Mzondeki (ANC) asked who was responsible for the reporting of accidents, and emphasized the importance of maintaining accurate records in this regard. With reference to the Trust, he asked whether the ex gratia payments were awarded over and above the workers’ existing compensation fund payments.
Mr Mzondeki stated that the presentation was based solely on the initial DuPont report, and that the 2006 report was needed to accurately gauge Sasol’s improvements and safety developments.
Mr Radebe said that he would attempt to sketch a picture of Sasol’s safety policy pre-2001. He emphasized that prior to 2001 there were safety standards in place. With regards to consistency of application, he stated that this was an aspect of safety that was being addressed in Sasol’s numerous training and development programmes. He stated that these programmes were holistic in nature, and were aimed at promoting sustainability and consistency in the application of safety procedures.
Mr Rose used an example to illustrate the RCR question. He stated that in a family of five, where all five members worked for 40 years, only one member of the family would ever see a doctor for work related incidents in that entire 40 year period. He stated that the petrochemical industry was more dangerous than other working environments, and that this was the reason for Sasol’s strict and ambitious safety targets. Prior to 2001, Sasol had good safety RCRs, but these targets have been ‘tightened up’ significantly. He maintained that Sasol had a dedicated budget in place for safety, and that this budget was mainly focused on employees. The implementation of education and training programmes as well as the need for improving the safety of Sasol’s machinery have both proved to be very expensive and formed the bulk of Sasol’s safety budget expenditure.
Mr Rose maintained that safety meetings with site management occured on a regular basis. Site managers are individually responsible for voicing their issues at these meetings, and are also responsible for ensuring that these issues are effectively recorded and addressed. DuPont is also currently on site at many plants transferring knowledge and expertise to the relevant individuals. In so far as collaboration with trade unions is concerned, Sasol has signed a safety accord with three trade unions, and is currently corresponding with them regarding safety issues at an executive and board level. Trade unions also attend local site meetings and are thus involved throughout Sasol’s management levels.
Mr Rose touched on another Sasol safety initiative, known as Life Saving Behaviour. This initiative analyses past accidents and assesses where safety procedures or employee behaviour can be improved. Mr Rose stressed that Sasol would not relax safety protocol when ‘things were going well.’ He also stressed that, although one would never be able to completely resolve conflict between individuals in the workplace, Sasol had various initiatives to ensure that the safety standards would be adhered to, and that the conflict would thus be kept to a minimum.
In so far as discipline is concerned, the first approach taken by Sasol is to try and reform behaviour. However, employees and contractors have been fired for lack of safety compliance, and this will continue.
Mr Maduna suggested that Sasol should to run competitions which encouraged safety in the workplace, and that this approach has been successful elsewhere.
Mr Rose responded that Sasol did run competitions, and that safety compliance was also a part of the incentive system.
Ms J David (Legal Advisor: Sasol Polymers) stated that, in so far as representation on the Trust is concerned, trustees were appointed by an agreement in which the trade unions were actively involved. She also pointed out, in response to the inquiry on a claim’s duration, that the Trust must assess the application and determine the payment amount within one year of application.
In response to the question on whether there were any attorneys or internal facilities to aid employees in making a claim, Ms David responded that there were no legal channels required to make the claim, and that the Trust was a separate legal entity. She also emphasized that employees do not contribute to the Trust, and that it was completely funded by Sasol. The Trust’s payments are also over and above the ordinary compensation that an employee would receive in such an event. The Trust’s payouts are also similar in amount to those which a court would award in damages
Mr Maduna asked whether there were any counseling facilities available for victims and dependents in the event of an accident.
Ms P Mudhray (Manager: Sasol Corporate Social Investment (CSI)) highlighted that Sasol had an employee assistance programme and provided trauma counseling in the event of an accident. After the accident, employees and their dependents are encouraged to seek help as required. It was emphasized that the Trust is mainly aimed at providing relief for contractors, as they are not always fully insured and taken care of. She pointed out that the HIV / AIDS education and voluntary testing initiative was very well received by employees, and that they were very cooperative in this regard. Ms Mudhray outlined some of Sasol’s CSI initiatives, and mentioned a pilot project in Katlehong, where over 180 HIV / AIDS orphans were being cared for. These children were not necessarily the children of Sasol employees, and thus is an indication of Sasol’s commitment to community development.
Ms Mudhray emphasized that Sasol’s CSI initiatives were primarily needs-based and were all sustainable initiatives. The three main Sasol CSI foci are education, skills development and training, as well as health and welfare.
She pointed out that Sasol had initially funded all employees who were on ARV treatment, but that employees now have medical aid that covers this treatment.
Mr Radebe stated that contractors are mainly employed by companies, and emphasized that Sasol has now inserted safety stipulations into these contracts to which these companies are bound. He also stated that the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) process was being addressed by Sasol’s Supplier Development Programme.
Mr Rose stated that Sasol has had literacy programmes for many decades. In so far as the training of contractors is concerned, they underwent a broad one-day training programme as well as specialized and site-specific training.
The Chair asked whether skills were being effectively transferred from DuPont to Sasol employees.
Mr Rose responded that DuPont was on site permanently, and that they were coaching each member of high-level management individually. He also stated that, lower down in the management ranks, DuPont is taking groups of approximately 12 individuals at a time to ensure effective skills transfer. Mr Rose insisted that DuPont was an organization which adhered to the highest international safety standards, and stated that eventually the knowledge and expertise will be commonplace in South Africa. When this happened, Sasol will not have to rely on external organizations such as DuPont, and will then be able to make use of South African expertise in this regard.
Mr J Malatsi (Chief Inspector – Department of Labour) made reference to the DuPont reports, and also highlighted that some of the issues discussed in the reports were incorporated into domestic legislation (issues regarding process safety; management of change, etc). He asked whether one could assume that Sasol’s compliance with such legislation was lackadaisical prior to the publication of these reports. He recommended that Sasol’s annual report include a report on safety improvements and compliance, and emphasized that the responsibility for safety in the Sasol workplace lies at board level. He inquired about the degree of Sasol’s progress in so far as ‘operationalizing’ safety procedures at all levels is concerned. He also recommended that Sasol exceed the safety practices recommended by DuPont.
Mr Rose highlighted that DuPont is a US based organization, and that the recommendations were with regard to US safety standards. These standards are the highest Process Safety Management in the world, and Mr Rose thus emphasized that Sasol is working towards a very demanding set of standards which requires extensive cooperation in order to be implemented and maintained effectively.
Mr Rose stressed that a separate report, which contains all of Sasol’s annual safety progress,
was published within two weeks of Sasol’s annual report. He also acknowledged that the introduction of local site safety committees was a good idea and would be investigated. Mr Rose assured the Committee that Sasol was not satisfied with being ‘just good enough,’ and stated that the DuPont reports would be a starting point for further safety development.
Mr Radebe stated that Sasol would be happy to liaise and work with the Department in the development of Sasol’s safety initiatives.
The Chair remarked that the safety recommendations had increased, and asked why these were not addressed in the initial audit.
Mr Rose responded that Sasol has five or six committee levels which strived to solve safety issues and problems at each level. He pointed out that solving issues took time, as often changes need to be budgeted for. He stated that the focus at the moment was on the development of a safety culture. Changing employee behaviour was the most important goal at present. It was also emphasized that there are incentives for effective safety compliance.
The Chair thanked the delegation, and applauded Sasol for its comprehensive HIV / AIDS programmes.
The meeting was adjourned.