Lending a SHEQ hand

Lending a SHEQ hand

In the mining and industrial sector, progressive operations in remote locations across Africa rely on key partnerships to help them navigate and overcome numerous logical and practical obstacles. We discover why safety, health, the environment, and quality all play a pivotal role in the remote site industry.

For Gift Mutonhere, head of SHEQ at Allterrain Services (ATS), a division of the Tsebo Group*, health and safety is more than a procedural exercise. It is paramount in the areas where ATS operates: the nearest town or medical facility can be hundreds of kilometres away, and a SHEQ incident not only has major implications for precious human lives, but can also have devastating financial and downtime implications for site operations.

“It’s important that we hold ourselves accountable by implementing best practices according to the highest international standards,” says Mutonhere.

The ultimate goal for ATS is to achieve certification on applicable ISO standards including food safety, quality, occupational health and safety, and environmental management systems. Obtaining this level of best practice excellence, however, is not without its challenges.

“It means adopting an agile approach, can-do attitude, and long-term view of SHEQ. Dynamic activities are all part of the job, ranging from catering to soft and hard maintenance work, construction, and facility development,” he explains. He adds that other dynamic activities include the need to overcome resourcing issues for quality raw materials, produce, products, and parts, as well as employing and training a professional team in skills-scarce areas.

Sourcing is paramount

It is essential for solutions providers to develop a strong skills base by finding the right individuals to train and deploy as competent SHEQ practitioners in remote areas. Companies in this sector will also need to overcome the logistical challenge of getting items like specialised kitchen equipment or safety, health, hygiene, and sanitation consumables to site, often in countries where these items are not readily available.

“Even things like acquiring high-quality produce and protein can be a challenge. We have to consider the environment in which produce is farmed, processed, packaged, and transported. We can’t risk people getting food-borne illnesses such as typhoid, hepatitis A, or cholera, which are all prevalent throughout Africa. We have to audit local suppliers and work with internal community liaison personnel to develop safe local supply chains,” continues Mutonhere.

Over and above benefitting the operation, suppliers also need to consider their impact on an environmental level. This means recycling, minimising waste, and, wherever possible, using cleaning chemicals and products that aren’t detrimental to the environment. Taking this a step further, it also means educating local communities on best practices for the planet, as well as on health and safety at home.

No man is an island

Mining, oil and gas, and remote site operations don’t exist in a vacuum. They form part of communities and need to set an example in ways that are both responsible and sustainable. This may take the form of community programmes, which can be set up to educate people on issues like the importance of conserving water, hand washing, and health and safety campaigns focusing on prevalent diseases, as well as community clean-ups and tree planting initiatives.

“To be in this business, you have to be passionate about people,” says Mutonhere. “SHEQ is about so much more than ticking off a compliance checklist: it’s about building environments in which people can thrive.”

* The Tsebo Group is a leading African integrated workplace management solutions provider with over 50 years of experience. Its business unit, Allterrain Services, specialises in catering and facilities management for many of Africa’s most remote industrial and mining sites.

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