On-site Emergency Medical Services for Mining Projects

Trevor Justus, the Managing Director of ATA International Holdings,

Wellness and Prevention-Oriented Emergency Medical Services

An emergency service provider should be appointed to implement a solution that meets the respective needs of a mine instead of off-the-shelf solutions. In the end, services that add value to an organisation, and not just merely ticking the box, are delivered. This is the advice which Trevor Justus, the Managing Director of ATA International Holdings, conveys to mining companies in Africa, as they are ramping up production to increase ore tonnage.

By Eric Peters

Changes to Mining Health and Safety Regulations globally are necessitating that mines and organisations in other industries leave no stone unturned in instituting measures to mitigate health and safety risks that their employees may be exposed to. What this implies for mining companies is that it is not just enough to have comprehensive safety strategies in place, they have to be well-equipped to mitigate any unforeseen circumstances, such as a medical emergency.

Increasing health and safety risk

In the current environment, mineworkers may be exposed to increasing health and safety risks than management may think. This is because there is increased activity as mining companies are ramping up production to meet tonnage targets. “While this (high productivity) may increase revenue and meet shareholder expectations, there are safety risks attached,” cautions Trevor Justus, the Managing Director of ATA International Holdings, a provider of turnkey medical and emergency solutions to mining companies in Africa. “For respective mining companies, it is advisable to assume that the risk is high, and adopt the ‘Better safe than sorry attitude’ mindset.”

Based on his experience, Justus is suitably qualified to offer informed advice on issues of managing medical emergencies in the mining environment. ATA International Holdings provides medical assistance infrastructure to mitigate on-site accident risk. In this way, it minimises health and safety impacts, which ensures the continuity of client business and productivity across all site operations.

Critical elements

Justus is eager to share with mining companies about critical issues that can aid them to be adequately prepared to effectively deal with on-site medical emergencies, specifically in the following four areas: The necessity of on-site emergency medical services; the scope of mining-specific emergency medical services; meticulous steps in customising a solution; and carrying out comprehensive research on actionable insights.

  1. The Necessity of Onsite Emergency Medical Services

Emergency medical services forms part of an integrated healthcare and safety programme, while supporting the wellness of employees.

Sound emergency medical services are a necessity and not an option, mainly from a business perspective, with these emergency medical services having a huge implication on the bottom-line. For instance, the loss or injury of employees can be devastating to daily operations. For this reason, it is important to have an efficient healthcare programme. These programmes result in decreased down time in operations due to less frequent interruption due to emergencies.

Consequently, Justus recommends that on-site medical services should focus on wellness and prevention rather than reaction. “Using data from incidents and common disease models provides the emergency service provider with insight to preventative measures and decrease employee absenteeism or less recovery time.”

  1. The Scope of On-site Emergency Medical Services

In a contemporary and ever evolving work environment, providing a proactive total healthcare solution that focuses on prevention and wellness is central. Standalone Emergency Care is no longer the acceptable standard. The expanded scope of contemporary on-site emergency medical services now includes the following aspects: Occupational Health Testing, Dietary programmes, Physiotherapy, Biokinetics, and Psychological Services.

Read more : Health and safety

Informing management at mining companies about key areas, Justus emphasises: “Focusing on physical health and preventing diseases such diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, respiratory illness, skeletal, muscle and joint disorders should be at the forefront. If injury does occur, the focus should be on recovery by utilising physiotherapists, biokinetics and trainers to ensure the employee is back to work timeously.”

“Nevertheless, should a life-threatening emergency occur the team of Doctors, Nurses and Paramedics are quickly able to provide lifesaving treatment. Should the injuries or sickness require upgraded treatment, air ambulances are quickly available to fly the injured to a suitable facility for upgraded treatment or surgery. Dentistry, optometry and psychology are becoming essential aspects of the on-site services and are growing in demand among sites.”

  1. Creating a suitable solution

Every mining company is unique, similarly the health and safety risks it faces. So, Justus says it is paramount for a service provider of on-site emergency medical solutions to ensure that a mine is provided with a suitable solution, through meticulous planning. In particular, sharing the experiences of ATA International Holdings, he mentions the following steps:

  • The process starts with a kick off meeting and visiting the mine. This involves investing the time to identify underlying and ongoing client needs to see the world from the mines point of view. Learning and appreciating the difficulties they face, their roles, and their work context.
  • Segmentation is used to align and focus on specific, targeted issues and build the medical team on these needs.
  • Then designing a complete solution for the mine’s current and long-term needs, ensuring that the initial and long-term experience of the client is always considered and evolves as needed. This is the key to a longer-term relationship based on a clear and accurate understanding of medical needs.
  • Once a full understanding is in place the medical professionals needed for the project are appointed and begin working with employees on-site. New and historic data is analysed on an ongoing basis to improve and adapt the services delivered. . Moreover, the service provider can participate in the management review and problem-solving meetings to adjust scope where needed. With the end goal being to develop as part of the mine team and not just as a service provider.
  1. Comprehensive research in actionable insights

The foundation of the success of any on-site service provider is comprehensive research that creates actionable insights into three areas: the problems clients face, the solution requirements, and the solution context.

Firstly, given that clients are the ultimate beneficiaries of the value of the business solutions created, a provider should be able to focus on the Solution Context, which captures operation and support requirements. It is worth stressing that understanding Solution Context is crucial to value delivery.

Secondly, endemic quality of staff and company team is a prerequisite. Otherwise, without it, the organisation will likely suffer due to poor performance and mismanagement.

Thirdly, the emergency medical services approach should go beyond the traditional focus on emergencies only. Actually, it needs emphasis on three areas: the total understanding of the problem to be solved, the context in which the solution will be used, and the evolution of that solution.

The buck stops with the service provider

When all is said and done, the buck stops with the emergency service provider, who, to succeed, should be determined to implement a solution that meets the needs of a mine instead of off-the-shelf requirements. In the end, services that add value, and not merely ticking the box, should be delivered.

On the other hand, given that there may be a number of eager service providers out there, it is imperative for clients to exercise due diligence and establish the veracity of claims of competency. This is because oversights in emergency services can be very costly and have an impact on the organisation’s bottom-line, in the event of an incident.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
Health and safety is a fundamental shared value for the mining industry, and one which is at the centre of every responsible mining company’s business strategy. However, as it usually happens, there are developments which shape the way this vital area is managed, one such development has been the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 has altered the way providers operate in the mining environment. Normally, times of crisis test the resolve of service providers to tackle urgent health challenges. From his viewpoint, Justus has noticed the pandemic has somehow drawn professionals from a cross section of disciplines together, tapping into their past experience.  “We have seen medical providers working together to understand and address the challenges caused by the crisis to support patients, their families, and communities. Using past lessons and management of Ebola, TB and Malaria, medical providers have relied on their knowledge to efficiently and effectively implement the vital protocols and measures needed to continue to operate safely. Each country has responded differently to the pandemic and placed restrictions on work-related travel including health professionals. The Vaccine programmes have allowed for some movement and better planning with quarantines in place. Continuing to share learnings from different responses and knowledge of specific health protocols is now vital moving forward.”
Another aspect that has been brought to the fore is the mental health of employees, an area hitherto overlooked, notes Justus. “Poor mental health and stress can negatively affect employees, job performance and productivity, work engagement, physical capability and daily functioning. Encouragingly, providing mental health services to employees is being prioritised. Workplace health promotion programs have proven to be successful, especially when they combine mental and physical health interventions.”
 Last but not least, Justus is of the view that to effectively tackle persistent health challenges the most practical approach is involving local medical service.

The feature was featured in the Nov/Dec 2021 


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