Summit to shine the light on safety of mineworkers

Summit to shine the light on safety of mineworkers.
Summit to shine the light on safety of mineworkers.
Image: 123RF/ fesenko

The health and safety of mineworkers, particularly fatalities, continue to be a great concern to the mineral resources department.

The main contributors of fatalities are fall of ground, transport and general accidents, including fire.

Undoubtedly, human and behavioural factors cannot be left out of the equation in dealing with this challenge.

Developing and implementing programmes to assist the sector is what drives the work of the Mine Health and Safety Council, a statutory body tasked with advising the minister of mineral resources on health and safety matters affecting mineworkers.

From January to September, there have been 66 fatalities against 67 in the same period in 2017.

The main contributor of fatalities were gold (35), other (16), platinum (eight) and coal (seven) mines.

The mine fatalities have also been exacerbated by three accidents at Sibanye Gold and Phalaborwa mines. There has also been a decrease in occupational diseases. A total of 4632 cases were reported in 2016, compared to 4483 cases during 2017.

All stakeholders also recognise that it cannot be business as usual as one death is one too many.

It is also important to consider that the long-term sustainability of mining is dependant not only on its growth, competitiveness and transformation, but also on how safe and well cared for its workforce is.

In light of the above, mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe requested that the 2018 tripartite summit comprising labour, the government and mining houses, which was scheduled to take place next month, be brought forward in order for all stakeholders in the sector to collectively assess progress made in attaining our objective of "Zero Harm", and to chart a way forward.

The minister has called on everybody to ensure that the health and safety of mineworkers is continuously protected in the mining industry.

Mantashe has further urged all stakeholders to appreciate that mining is not only about the minerals but is about human beings.

Tripartite stakeholders in the sector will host the summit next week with envisaged robust discussions on pertinent causes of injuries, health issues and fatalities.

Among others, critical topics for discussion will include: falls of ground, seismicity, noise, TB, right to refuse dangerous work, occupational lung diseases, fires, explosions and the implementation of the culture transformation framework.

The commitment by leaders in the industry in driving the implementation of the milestones will also be part of the critical discussions.

The summit will seek to review progress towards achievement of the milestones, which were agreed on by stakeholders at the 2014 Occupational Health and Safety summit for implementation by 2024.

Principal stakeholders will recommit themselves to the achievement of "Zero Harm" in the South African mining industry and continue to strive to ensure that every mineworker returns from work unharmed every day.

This is the responsibility of all stakeholders, which include the government, labour and mining companies.

Mantashe is expected to deliver a keynote address at the opening of the 2018 summit.

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