Harmony’s COVID-19 Interventions - Business Media MAGS

SA Mining

Harmony’s COVID-19 Interventions

By: Sihle Maake, Harmony Gold’s Group Communications Manager.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on our society and economy. Along with so many other businesses, Harmony faced the very difficult task of sustaining itself in a severely disrupted business environment. This included a compulsory suspension – either partial or absolute – of our operations both in South Africa and Papua New Guinea.

Harmony developed a standard operating procedure to help in the prevention and transmission of COVID-19 at all our operations. These were in line with the guidelines prepared by the Minerals Council South Africa, and the Guiding Principles on Prevention and Management of COVID-19 in South African Mining Industry published by the Department of Minerals and Energy.

The roll-out of our four-phase risk management strategy effectively equipped Harmony with the necessary resources and processes to proactively respond to COVID-19 and enabled us to continue operating safely at all times.

Our approach to safety and healthcare ensures healthcare is easily accessible to all employees. It is important that our employees are fit for life, fit for work and fit to retire. The four pillars of our healthcare strategy are:

                  Education, awareness and promotion of good health.

                  Disease prevention and risk management.

                  Clinical intervention (treatment programmes).

                  Continuous risk profiling.

Harmony has dedicated health hubs at all its operations which cater for all the medical and health needs of employees and, in some cases, of its host community members. Each health hub is staffed by doctors, allied healthcare workers and pharmacists. In addition, Harmony has ensured that medical doctors are part of the operational teams at each of the mines.

Increased awareness campaigns on the COVID-19 pandemic have been central in ensuring employees are kept abreast of reliable information and that they continuously take the necessary precautions in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

This was done through an in-house mobile app known as the Harmony Connect, a data-free employee mobile solution that offers two-way communication around the pandemic and other company information. This app is also used by employees to do their own self-screening before coming to the offices/sites. Furthermore, Harmony has an independent COVID-19 hotline number which employees are encouraged to use should they experience symptoms or feel ill.

Harmony also launched the Employee Psychosocial Programme, in partnership with the Reality Wellness Group, for all employees and their immediate family members. This multi-faceted programme offers face-to-face counselling and telephonic financial or legal advice by qualified social workers and psychologists.

This service is available 24/7 in all nine official South African languages and can be accessed via email, sending a “please call me” message or using a toll-free number. The pandemic has had a significant impact on many of our employees, and as a result an additional programme to address the psychosocial effects arising from the quarantine and lockdown processes was launched.

Employees scheduled to go home for the festive season were required to sign a registration form and a full screening was conducted. They were also given a COVID-19 booklet with in-depth information of how to care for their families if they were to fall ill and how to celebrate responsibly during the festive season.

Upon returning to work, they were given a quarantine/isolation guideline booklet (translated versions made available) to help them understand the importance of the process. Those employees who were required to quarantine for a 14-day period were engaged with daily to ensure their mental well-being.

Each operation has a specific disaster mitigation room, which is set up to reduce churn among team members. As some employees test positive and are required to be withdrawn, we track and trace to ensure continual adherence to safety and health protocols and that production is impacted as little as possible.

Harmony CSI and the Harmony Trust also embarked on community initiatives where food parcels, hygiene care kits and face masks were distributed to community members, including child-headed homes and the elderly in the areas of its immediate operations.

Some awareness campaigns have been extended to local radio stations and community print media. The most notable campaign was to distribute leaflets addressing anti-stigmatisation in our host communities. These leaflets were also used by the Gauteng Health Department while initiating their COVID-19 screening and testing programme.

Harmony prides itself on the work done in managing the impact of the pandemic on all stakeholders, communities and employees. Despite the challenges faced, we will continue to prioritise all safety and healthcare initiatives, including those relating to occupational and lifestyle diseases.

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