SAFE
OPERATIONS

Rössing strongly believes that all incidents, injuries, and occupational accidents are preventable, and is striving towards the goal of zero harm.

Rössing Uranium achieved a significant milestone with its All Injury Frequency Rate, which has reduced to 0.29 against a target of 0.51, the best performance the mine has recorded in the past 15 years. This was the result of increased rigour and focused implementation of our safety programmes across our operation, made possible by the leadership and ownership of our employees.

2021 was also a year free of fatalities, permanent disability injuries and significant process safety incidents. We consistently strive to create a zero-harm environment, regardless of where our people work or what type of work they are engaged in.

During 2021, the following highlights and ongoing initiatives took place to further our goal of zero harm:

  • Our near-miss reporting target was exceeded and continues an outstanding performance for the past ten years. Findings from the housekeeping competition and fixed-in-the-field Critical Risk Management actions are logged as near misses to ensure it gets investigated to prevent recurrence.
  • Crew projects target exceeded in 2021. This is another milestone reached for the past seven years in the history of Rössing, with significant and notable improvements made in 2021.
  • After a deep dive, Rössing identified an additional 25 pressure vessels, which were not on scheduled maintenance on SAP. This was immediately rectified, and they are now being scheduled for annual inspections.
  • Rössing has invested in the training for AIA assessment of our engineers, and this was completed successfully.
  • Statutory inspections on lifting equipment were prioritised as a key performance indicator. This was tracked monthly and reported on with added value to process.
  • A big drive was put into vehicle safety. To strengthen compliance to vehicles and driving, we rolled out a safety pause and sent out awareness messages on safe driving and driver behaviour. In support of this, a memorandum was sent out to create further awareness in general and in terms of the consequences for the non-compliance to road safety rules. To further strengthen compliance to traffic rules and speed limits, the mine procured a new speed camera in 2021.
  • ISO 14001 second surveillance audit was carried out successfully in April 2021. Four minor non-conformances were reported. All non-conformances were closed off within the time-frame, and Rössing retained its certification.
  • ISO 45001 certification audit carried out in January 2021 with three minor non-conformances reported. Rössing was recommended for certification and received certification in this discipline.
  • The annual Health, Safety and Environmental Legal Review was carried out and the report was received with one minor observation, which was fixed immediately.
  • First Party Assurance Dashboard was successfully maintained.
  • Monthly tracking of due diligence inspections has resulted in improved compliance with quality checks being done randomly. There is still opportunity for improvement in this regard to ensure compliance at all levels.
  • The housekeeping competition delivered good results for 2021 and will be further improved and sustained in 2022.

Figure 3 depicts the AIFR for the past five years, from 2017 to 2021. Achieving zero harm requires absolute adherence to policies, standards, and procedures intended to protect employees from injury and illness, and to minimise significant negative impacts on their lives.

(From left to right) Germina Josef, Sherwin Paulse and Lukas Nependa at mine’s view point.

 

RADIATION
SAFETY

The primary purpose of radiation safety is to ensure compliance of the organisation to the Atomic Energy and Radiation Protection Act 5 of 2005, Radiation Protection and Waste Disposal Regulations GN 221, GG4835 of 11 November 2011.

 

For the safety of our people.

This involves assessing, quantifying and controlling the risks of radiation exposure in the workplace. The Radiation Management Plan (RMP) provides a comprehensive summary of the risk assessments, sources and receptors referenced, and controls implemented.

To verify this compliance, the National Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA) audits the implementation of our RMP annually and we provide a narrative report on it to them.

Radiation exposure control is one of the key aspects of occupational hygiene monitoring at Rössing. The programme includes the monitoring of Similar Exposure Groups (SEGs) in which employees are divided according to the areas in which they work on similar tasks.

Other monitoring activities include Final Product Recovery (FPR) surface contamination and airborne long-lived radioactive dust (LLRD), Thermoluminescent dosimetry (TLD) for radiation workers, and urine sampling. Public monitoring, as well as the monitoring of shipments, form part of radiation safety exposure control.

Monitoring

We continued to apply the risk-based monitoring approach for SEG monitoring. Personal and area monitoring for SEGs measure the three exposure pathways, namely internal exposures to long-lived radioactive dust (LLRD), radon decay products, as well as external (gamma) radiation exposure.

In 2021, we collected over 450 personal and area SEG samples, and many other additional samples of area dose rates. Assuming a working year of 2,000 hours, the annualised and averaged dose by SEG is displayed in Figure 4. The average dose ranged between 0.73 and 2.91mSv/a against the occupational legal limit of 20 mSv/a. The overall average radiation dose was 1.4 mSv/a.

The area exhibiting the highest risk in terms of radiation exposure is the FPR area. The area is a controlled radiation area with access restriction, fingerprint access and contamination check for exiting personnel. We perform regular monitoring of surface contamination, inhalation dose rates for radioactive dust and area gamma dose rates.

To optimise these variables, we set a target of a maximum average surface contamination of 1 Bq per square centimetre (Bq/cm²) for the area, and a maximum average dust inhalation dose rate of 10 micro-sieverts per annum (µSv/h). None of these limits were exceeded.

In 2021, we performed over 1,000 urine samples without exceeding the action level for uranium in urine, which is 40 micro-grammes per litre (µg/L). A total of 42 pregnancy tests were performed, including females classified as radiation workers.

Achievement

History was made on 18 August 2021 when Rössing finally got rid of 14 sealed radioactive sources. Since the 1970s, Rössing has employed several sealed radioactive sources in its operations for the purposes of level and density measurements. With the advances in technology, all the sealed sources have been replaced and subsequently removed from operation.

Since the mine is no longer in need of sources and they are no longer in use, as a responsible organisation, a decision was made to return them to the South African manufacturer for disposal. In addition, Namibia does not have a waste facility to manage disused sealed radioactive sources safely and securely.

This is not only an achievement for Rössing, but it is also a relief to the regulator, as they have been removed from the national register.

ALARA campaign

In 2021, the Radiation Safety unit ran an “ALARA” campaign from July to December. ALARA stands for “As Low As Reasonably Achievable”, taking economic and social factors into account, with regards to radiation protection.

The objectives of the campaign were to:

  • sensitise employees on radiation safety protection and awareness;
  • help the workforce identify the little actions that we do in work areas that have the potential to cause unnecessary radiation exposures;
  • remind employees of what to do in the event of spills and incidents, and
  • to help evaluate our work areas with regards to radiation exposure and make the necessary improvements.

The messages shared were well received by our fellow colleagues.

Radiation safety in the community

Rössing Uranium continues to share knowledge and safe practices with other operators in the industry and in the country. In 2021, Rössing provided training on instrumentation and radiation safety awareness to employees of Bank of Namibia and Langer Heinrich Uranium (LHU) mine.

Figure 4