Health and safety of all individuals is paramount

The mas funeral of 84 miners who died in the Vaal Reefs gold mine disaster was held in Orkney. © Unknown.
The mas funeral of 84 miners who died in the Vaal Reefs gold mine disaster was held in Orkney. © Unknown.

The mine health and safety inspectorate, which was established in terms of the Mine Health and Safety Act of 1996, is responsible for safeguarding the health and safety of people at mines or affected by mining activities.

The mine health and safety inspectorate, which was established in terms of the Mine Health and Safety Act of 1996, is responsible for safeguarding the health and safety of people at mines or affected by mining activities.

The activities of the inspectorate are geared to achieving these strategic objectives:

l Reducing occupational injuries and ill-health;

l Developing and maintaining an effective policy and legislative framework;

l Improving information management;

l Supporting cross-cutting initiatives of government relating to economic empowerment, human resource development, employment equity, poverty alleviation and combating HIV-Aids.

The chief inspector of mines heads the tripartite structures established by the Act, namely the Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC) and the Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA), which is also a Sector and Education Training Authority (Seta).

In the case of the MQA, the chief inspector is the chair of the board. Government, employee and employer organisations serve on tripartite structures. The MHSC advises the minerals and energy minister on safety and health and promotes health and safety. The MQA is responsible for the education and training of the sector.

Safety performance improved in 2005, when a fatality rate of 0,56 deaths for every 1000 employees was recorded, compared to 0,65 deaths for every 1000 employees in 2003.

Efforts to quantify and prevent occupational diseases are progressing slowly. Poor reporting and collection remains a serious concern and this limits analysis and interpretation of line data.

But the annual occupational health reports received from a number of mines, and the available data gives a better picture of the situation.

Efforts to deal with noise and hearing loss have started in earnest.

At the mine health and safety summit in 2003, all parties agreed to work towards achieving national health and safety milestones.

The following was agreed on:

l Milestones for safety performance in the gold sector. To achieve safety performance levels equivalent to international benchmarks for underground metalliferous mines, at least by 2013.

In platinum, coal and other sectors, to achieve constant and continuous improvement equivalent to international benchmarks, at least by 2013.

l Milestones for elimination of silicosis. By December 2008, 95percent of all exposure measurement results will be below the occupational exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica of 0,1mg-m3 (these results are individual readings and not average results).

After December 2013, no new cases of silicosis will occur among previously unexposed people.

l Milestones for elimination of noise-induced hearing loss. The present noise exposure limit stated in the MHSA regulations is no more than 85dBL.

After December 2008, the hearing conservation programme must ensure that there is no deterioration in hearing greater than 10percent among occupationally exposed individuals.

By December 2013, the total noise emitted by all equipment must not exceed a sound pressure level of 110 dBL in that workplace. - Department of Minerals and Energy

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