The draft Mine Health and Safety Amendment Bill of November 2013, including a new definition of ‘mining area’, is out for comment.
In terms of clause 31 of the draft Bill, a Mining Area would encompass areas for which mining rights or mining permits have been granted; adjacent or non-adjacent surface land on which related or incidental operations take place; any connecting road, railway line, power line, pipeline, cableway or conveyor belt; the surface land on which such a structure is located; and all buildings, structures, machinery, mine dumps and other objects on the surface land specified in the definition.
The proposed new definition also refers to related environmental, health, social and labour matters and ‘any latent or other impact thereto’.
The term ‘owner’ is redefined to encompass the holder of mining rights and permits along with ‘works’-related activities, reports Legalbrief Policy Watch.
Formal Health and Safety training
The draft Bill also seeks to place an obligation on employers to prioritise the provision of ‘formal’ health and safety training at South Africa’s mines. In the context of training, the term ‘formal’ refers to structure and assessment.
With that in mind, clause 7 of the draft Bill proposes removing the term ‘reasonably practical’ from section 10 of the Act. Related to this, clause 6 seeks to amend section 7 (staffing a mine with due regard to health and safety) with the aim of making the employer who appoints a contractor ‘ultimately responsible’ for compliance with the Act.
Regarding an employer’s obligations in respect of investigating and reporting on accidents, deaths, serious injuries, serious illnesses and health-threatening occurrences, the draft Bill proposes the insertion of a new sub-section under section 11 of the Act.
Replacing sub-sections (5), (5A), (5B), 6, 7 and 8 of section 11, the proposed new provisions spell out procedures currently dealt with in far less detail.
Occupational Health issues
Other issues addressed in the proposed amendments include the employment of occupational health practitioners; declaring an employee ‘unfit to work’ and that employee’s right to appeal such a decision (section 17 of the Act dealing with exit certificates); disputes over a declaration of unfitness to work (section 20 of the Act); and the right to appeal a decision made by the Chief Inspector of Mines (section 57).
In this regard, it is proposed that no person should approach the Labour Court regarding an administrative decision by the Chief Inspector of Mines until he/she has exhausted the appeal process provided for in the Act.
Regarding institutional arrangements, clause 16 of the draft Bill seeks to make provision under section 43 of the Act (Mine Health and Safety Council) for an administrative fund not only for the payment of fines imposed by the Principal Inspector of Mines, but also – at the Minister’s discretion – for the promotion of health and safety across the industry.
Appointment of Inspectors
Amendments aimed at strengthening section 47 of the Act (the inspectorate) are also proposed, seeking to provide for the appointment of a Principal Inspector of Mines for each region and the appointment of a Medical Inspector, as well as the Minister’s obligations in their regard.
With that in mind, consequential amendments to section 49 of the Act (functions of the Chief Inspector of Mines) are proposed including the repeal of sections 49A (financial and judicial management) and 49B (cooperative governance).
On penalties, the draft Bill proposes that section 92 of the Act should be amended to provide for offences on the part of ‘an employer who is a company ‘not exceeding 10% of the company’s annual turnover for the period during which … (it) has failed to comply with the relevant provision, or to imprisonment not exceeding ten years’.
Schedule 8 of the Act sets out penalties for offences committed by any person not deemed to be ‘an employer who is a company’.
According to a memorandum on the objects of the proposed new statute, it is ‘of high priority’ not only to the Department of Mineral Resources, but to government in general.
Reference is made to the ‘urgent need to improve health and safety standards in order to curb the high number of fatalities the industry is currently experiencing’ as well as the incidence of occupational diseases among employees.
Comment on the draft Bill has been invited for a period of 60 working days.
Source; Pam Saxby for Legalbrief Policy Watch.