From Teacher to Radiation Specialist

Rössing Uranium’s Radiation Safety Specialist Nelao Endjala is one of the few phenomenal people who took a leap of faith, and joined the mining industry from her previous profession as a teacher.

Nelao did not anticipate what the journey ahead of her entailed, when she joined Rössing Uranium as an Equipment Operator in 2009. She worked in the Open Pit operating haul trucks, water carts and diesel trucks, and also assisted in pit control as a back-up dispatcher and a peer educator for her shift.

In September 2013, the ambitious Nelao joined the Radiation Safety team, acting as a Radiation Protection Officer after she completed the Radiation Safety Officer’s (RSO) course. She was permanently appointed into the position in March 2014. In 2018, Nelao was promoted to the role of Radiation Advisor.

Her passion and dedication to the profession has resulted in her further promotion, in which she is currently serving as a Radiation Safety Specialist since May 2021. When Nelao joined Rössing, an organisation that believes in investing in its employees, she never imagined being a beneficiary of the mine’s employee development opportunities.

“Firstly, Rössing refunded me money that I paid for the RSO course – based on good performance. I worked diligently and passed the course very well. Rössing also financially supported me in completing my two qualifications, Environmental Management and Applied Radiation Science & Technology.”

Moving from mining operations to radiation safety, Nelao recalls the challenge in adjusting to new responsibilities.

“I was allowed to work independently, do my planning and ensured that targets were met. I must admit that I had to learn a lot from my mistakes, sometimes the hard way, but I’m happy to note that it was worth it.”

Nelao’s Role as a Radiation Specialist

As a Radiation Specialist and consequently the Radiation Safety Officer for the organisation, Nelao’s main duty is to implement Rössing’s radiation management plan (RMP).

Nelao helps to facilitate the radiation training programmes for employees, and develops and approves any training material relating to radiation protection. She also supports the Namibia Uranium Institute in training programmes that are aimed at enhancing radiation safety skills for personnel in the mining industry and associated industries.

Nelao’s job requires that she reviews all the laws and regulations to ensure there are no new legal requirements that are overlooked.

In addition to Nelao’s daily responsibilities and duties, she represents industry on matters relating to radiation safety in her role as chairperson for the Radiation Safety Working Group (RSWG) at the Namibia Uranium Association. The RSWG consists of members from the operating uranium mines in Namibia and exploration companies. The purpose of the RSWG is to create a platform where different specialists in radiation collectively devise ways to implement radiation management.

Implementing Radiation Safety to Protect Employees and the Environment

As the Radiation Safety specialist Nelao notes, “Rössing is committed to the health and safety of its employees, one of the reasons why many people make it their employer of choice. At Rössing we have a “zero harm” approach towards all health and safety initiatives hence our outstanding performance with low injury numbers. We are one of the safest operating uranium mines in the country and this can be testified by the safety awards received consecutively over the past two years.

Rössing’s Radiation Management Plan (RMP), is approved by the National regulator, the National Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA), which is aligned to the procedures and standards outlined by the International Commission for Radiological Protection (ICRP) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The RMP ensures that the mine adheres to all aspects of radiation protocol to eliminate any impact on its employees and surrounding environment.

Nelao’s Message to Young People

Nelao’s main message to young people is to continue reaching for greater heights, and that success comes from a self-disciplined approach towards achieving goals. Above all else, she encourages aspiring professionals to always maintain a sense of humour along the way, and display a willingness to perform any task when it is required.

Contributed by Rössing Uranium