When you hear that the man responsible for the health and safety of all staff and guests at Kimberley’s Flamingo Casino is a volunteer paramedic and assists in fighting veld fires in his spare time, you realise just how passionate Jaco Van Wyk is about his day job.
Van Wyk’s official title is Flamingo Casino’s occupational safety, health, and environmental professional, and, since last year, also the Covid-19 Compliance Officer. His role for the past 11 years has been to ensure the health and safety of more than 140 staff, 40 security officers and 40 cleaners, working shifts, plus guests, which, pre-Covid-19, could be up to 1 500 if all facilities were full.
When Covid-19 appeared on the radar last year, Sun International conducted extensive research and used guidelines released by international and local tourism and health authorities to understand the risks and how to manage them. These learnings were used to implement protocols that contributed to the re-opening of Flamingo, once hard lockdown had lifted.
Towards the end of 2020, Sun International received an award by the Institute of Risk Management South Africa (IRMSA) recognising the extensive and world-class Covid-19 controls the group has introduced across all its hotel and casino properties.
“Our priority is to protect our guests and our staff. We closely monitored the advice from local and international health organisations and experts and ensured that we followed best-practice for the industry,” Van Wyk said.
Prior to joining Sun International, Van Wyk worked in the same field at a government parastatal, followed by a stint in his own business when the opportunity arose for him to join the hotel, gaming and entertainment group.
As an occupational health and safety expert, Van Wyk needs to ensure his teams are as well-oiled as the equipment they service – both need regular tuning.
“The surveillance & maintenance guys must be trained and certified medically fit for work which includes working at heights and climbing ladders to the various equipment and machinery on complex. We have 35 level 3 first aiders on staff, when you have pregnant or elderly guests and children on your premises you need to ensure their safety,” Van Wyk explained.
Some of the projects which Van Wyk has worked on in collaboration with the maintenance and operations teams include replacing the chiller system at Flamingo which regulates the temperature while saving water and electricity with new technology. “We are installing a water and electricity metering system with a dashboard connected to a computer system, which will immediately alert us if there is an increase in consumption, which could indicate something like a water leak, and would allow us to implement a solution in real time.”
“It’s a team effort. We pride ourselves on a safe environment and I’m happy to say we haven’t had any major incidents in the past 11 years. Our internal and external audits see us receiving among the highest compliance ratings in the group, of which we are very proud.”
For Van Wyk, who is married with two daughters and one son, being involved in health and safety in the community in his spare time is about personal growth.
Even if that’s just a snake on the premises.
“Because we are situated outside of town in the veld and have the Kamfers Dam and the golf course adjacent, we have occasional snakes, but nobody has ever been bitten. We have a no-kill policy and several snake handlers who help to relocate them to a safe spot. They are all trained, certified and have permits to conduct this work.”
Van Wyk said the pandemic had highlighted the need for continuous communication alerting staff to protocols. “Leadership presence is also critical to reinforce rules and implement consequences if protocols are not followed.”