Health and Safety

PanAust’s commitment to health and safety is underpinned by the Zero Harm philosophy where all workplace incidents and injuries are considered preventable.

The health and safety of the workforce and that of the neighbouring communities is critical to every aspect of PanAust’s business. The Vision and Values outline the Company’s commitment to health and safety. Health and safety is also explicitly addressed within the organisation’s 'code of conduct', The PanAust Way, and PanAust’s leaders are required to promote a culture of Zero Harm. 

The Company recognises that a risk-aware workforce is integral to achieving continual safety improvement. Behavioural safety programs are a fundamental element of creating a risk-aware culture, and these programs underpin the effectiveness of management systems. A proactive safety culture based on lead indicators such as safety training, safety leadership and hazard identification continues to be a focus across the PanAust workforce.

The Company continually improves its safety performance through risk management processes that identify systems, processes and procedures that need strengthening. PanAust implemented safety leadership training in 2012 to ensure people in leadership roles throughout the Company give safety their highest priority and that they create a culture of Zero Harm within their teams. Safety targets are included in leaders' performance measures.

PanAust undertakes occupational health and safety audits against ISO18001, and through identification of gaps puts in place management plans to ensure the Company is aligned to the standard.

Within the Lao working environment, particular attention is given to the development of Lao national employees to ensure they work in a healthy and safe manner.

Cardinal Rules

PanAust's Cardinal Rules are seven clear and simple safety instructions to which all PanAust employees must comply at all times. The Cardinal Rules focus on high-risk activities within the mining industry that have historically caused harm to people and are applicable to PanAust. PanAust has one supplementary Cardinal Rule for work undertaken by employees in Laos. 

1. Never operate any mobile equipment while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

2. Never operate any mobile equipment unless specifically licensed, trained or properly authorised to do so.

3. Never maintain any equipment before first rendering it safe by isolation, unless specifically licensed, trained or properly authorised to do otherwise.

4. Never remove, modify or bypass a personal danger tag or lock unless properly authorised to do so.

5. Never work at heights greater than 1.8 metres unless either the work area is fully guarded to prevent falls or appropriate personal fall protection is worn.

6. Never enter a designated confined space unless properly authorised to do so.

7. Never instruct another person to breach a Cardinal Rule.

Supplementary Cardinal Rule that applies only in Laos due to the presence of unexploded ordnance (UXO)

8. Never handle UXO unless specifically licensed, trained or properly authorised to do so.

Unexploded ordnance

Between 1964 and 1973, approximately two million tonnes of ordnance (explosive weapons) were dropped on Laos; an estimated 30 per cent of which failed to detonate. This has resulted in approximately 78 million potential unexploded ordnance (UXO) remaining. UXO continually hinder daily life and pose restrictions on the socio-economic development and safety of local residents, employees and contractors in Laos. In high-risk areas where there are plans in place for exploration and future mining activities, significant additional planning and lead-times are incorporated into Company programs to ensure the thorough identification and safe disposal of UXO.

UXO is not prevalent at the Phu Kham Operation and there is a reasonably low-level presence at Ban Houayxai. At Phonsavan where the KTL project is located, the Company requires stringent clearance procedures to be adopted prior to working in the field. When UXO clearance is required, international experts who are registered with and accredited to Lao National Standards are contracted to conduct this work.

Contractor management

The Company continues to work closely with local contractors who have had little to no previous mining experience to continuously improve their safety culture and bridge gaps in their safety performance. At the same time, the Company is committed to engaging local contractors to enable economic benefits to be shared with the broader Lao community.

The Company has a Contractor Management Plan that focuses on heavy equipment services. The Plan aims to lift the safety outcomes of contractors to the same high standard as PanAust's permanent employees. A dedicated contractor safety management team focuses on management systems development for, and capacity building and compliance auditing of contractor groups.

Aviation safety

When required, PanAust used fixed-wing and rotary-wing (helicopter) aircraft to transport personnel and equipment to its operations and project sites.

The Frieda River Copper-Gold Project is located in a remote region of north-western Papua New Guinea and is currently only accessible by air transport. People movements in and out of the site are conducted using contracted fixed-wing aircraft services, while helicopters are used for transporting personnel and equipment, including drill rigs, to challenging, mountainous locations.

To mitigate risks associated with aviation travel, PanAust has implemented a Group Aviation Standard, a Helicopter External Load Operations Guideline, and Travel Standard. These standards and guidelines, as well as individual country civil aviation regulations, detail the minimum controls required for aviation safety across the Group.

PanAust also requires an annual third part aviation audit of its private charter providers.


Crisis and emergency management

PanAust's ability to manage emergencies is vital to ensuring the health and safety of its employees and local communities.

PanAust's Operations are located in a remote area of Laos where there is limited Government infrastructure or systems to deal with complicated or severe medical emergencies. Each Operation therefore has an emergency response plan in place which is supported by trained professional fire and emergency services teams and equipment, medical facilities, and practitioners capable of supporting the health the workforce.

Teams complete training modules equivalent to an Australian Certificate III in Mines Emergency Response and Rescue. Each Operation is also equipped with trauma management clinics staffed by doctors and paramedics.

PanAust's crisis management structure includes plans that detail the strategic response and management of Company-wide impacts during a crisis. Each year, PanAust holds crisis management training to ensure call out procedures detailed in the plans are well-understood and teams at all levels of the business can operate effectively in the event of a crisis.


Details of PanAust's workplace health and safety performance during each calendar year are detailed in the 'Safety Performance' section of the Company’s annual ‘Business Review and Sustainability Report’.