I interviewed Kathy Squire, co-owner of Step It Up Productions, about her work in the Western Limb on mine safety. Kathy was a safety events co-ordinator for one of the major platinum mining groups.
Learning to swim in the deep end
Kathy says that a lot of her drive and self-belief came from working on the mines with people who challenged her and “pushed her in the deep end”. She says a lot of her development came from the sort of people who could see her developing and playing a bigger role. The sort of people who said “Ek wil niks van jou hoor nie. Ons gaan dit doen” (translation: “I don’t want to hear anything from you. We are going to do it”).
She says that the mine safety events that they ran were a real learning experience and a chance to really learn about what life was like for the miners. They put safety and fun together. They used music to get the message out that injuries and deaths on the mines and were preventable and avoidable by going back to the basics. The messages were simple yet powerful: “One injury one too many”, and were delivered with choirs, drumming, soccer and boxing celebrities. Mine safety became something cool and happening, and everyone in the company was involved.
Keeping it real
It is a hard life on the mines, and these kind of events honour the people that work in the mines and create a partnership around safety.
Kathy was involved in a programme of 46 such mine safety events. And the approach was effective. A survey done 3 months after the event showed an almost complete recollection of the major daily safety principles that the programme aimed to instill among all mine employees.
These events were successful because they brought humanity and life to the mines. Kathy says that in order to make something like this work you have got to be genuine.
Learning from each other
One of the most effective events was one at which someone who had suffered an mining-related accident spoke about his experience of living in the township in a wheelchair and what life was like for him. He had to use his injury compensation to pay people to get him around. He would sometimes be robbed due to his vulnerable position. He spoke very powerfully about how the safety messages would have made a difference to him, and urged his fellow workers to follow the basic steps, so that they did not suffer the same fate that he had.