DMR forms mining health and safety centre of excellence

The SA Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) is setting up a mining health and safety research centre of excellence in Janurary 2013.

SA DMR deputy chief mining inspector for coastal and central regions, Thabo Dube, who also serves on the Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC) for OHS research, and chairs the Safety In Mining Research Advisory Council (Simrac), said “we are not on top of mining health and safety impacts.”

DMR is drafting a 2013 mining occupational health and safety action plan, mining TB /HIV /AIDS action plan, and a mining safety culture transformation framework, to be implemented by a South African mining sheq centre of excellence.

A tripartite state, business and labour mining forum would meet quarterly from 2013 to share health and safety information. New research outcomes would be implemented in a best practice drive.

“We must engage with one another, and revitalise health and safety research, develop an operational model, using instruments like the CSIR. We are consulting several state agencies and drafting service level agreements with them, starting operations of the mining OHS centre of excellence in January 2013.”

Dube also noted that a revolutionary approach was required to achieve excellence in mining health and safety science, engineering, technology and practice. “We must work smarter, not harder, to achieve a step change”, he said.

SA mining lacks OHS research

SA mining department deputy chief inspector Thabo Dube also acknowledges that legislation provides for mining risk management research and technology, while mining health and safety “research appetite had declined. There is no research to support mining to attain the 2013 milestones” and recent research was merely “driven by statistics”.

South Africa once was a leading researcher in mining impacts, but recently Australia and other countries had taken the gap while SA mining was restructuring and disinvesting, he said in a speech indicating that DMR was cracking a whip on its health and safety agencies and resources.

Dube laments the fact that mining health and safety research and tertiary training by universities and state agencies lacked consultation, buy-in and implementation. ”We are reviewing the whole mining health and safety research programme to increase consultation with industry. This would have to change.”

Mining sheq research “must be relevant to issues that bother industry. There are 500 research reports at the Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC)… it is time for agencie to communicate”, said Dube.

“The old Comro had moved to CSIR and skills had migrated to small consultancies with low resource levels, thus mining health and safety skills and other resources were scattered”, Dube said at the 2012 annual CSIR conference.

The SA Mine Health and Safety (MHS) Act would also be amended at the end of 2012, four years since it was first implemented. “Mining health and safety inspectors need updated research and technology”, he said at a CSIR technology conference in Pretoria in October 2012.

“We have to improve education and training levels”, Dube said, noting that the Mine Health and Safety Council advises the SA minister of Mineral Resources on regulations, policy, HIV and TB programmes and OHS promotion. He oversees occupational health and safety research initiated by Simrac.

SA mining OHS milestones 2013 not met

Mining health and safety fatalities, injuries, illness and hearing loss milestones for 2013 would probably not be met, Dube acknowledged. “Industry OHS performance is stuck on a plateau.

Fatalities are stuck at a rate of 0.11, injury at 0.2, while 0.05 is the target. Mining equipment would have to meet a noise emission limit of 110dB by 2013.

Dube said the situation required a major debate, to be hosted at the annual mining safety summit in 2013.

Mining deaths  major causes remained machinery, logged by three different types, totaling 84% of causes, fall of ground at 30% of causes, and other causes like electricity, slips and trips.

Mining occupational disease leading causes remained dust exposure, leading to silicosis and tuberculosis, aggravated by TV, HIV and other opportunistic viral infections.

CSIR and other research have found that physical strain was not a major cause of mining deaths or disease, but exposures to toxins such as diesel fumes contribute to health impacts.

SA mining deaths and injuries stats plateau

The SA Department of Mineral Resources said mining fatalities in 2012 up to September were down to 76 from 85 last year. When the 2013 targets were set nine years ago, there were 270 fatalities, dropping to by 60% to 123 last year.

The state had to act to “improve education around health and safety, and to create an enabling environment for mining”.

DMR supports mining mechanisation efforts in the interest of preventing workplace deaths and injuries. Responding to queries about the need to retain jobs, he noted that the SA DMR mandate was to prevent occupational deaths and disease.

Sheq consultants attending the CSIR conference agreed that mining research and development expenditure had to increase. “Mining technologies remained generally the same in the last decades. Collaboration on OHS is essential”, said a consultant of Technology Innovation. –Source; Sheqafrica.com

Mines pay workers for ‘zero harm’

The Chamber of Mines said in October 2012 that production bonuses would be replaced by ‘zero harm operations bonuses’, as reported in Business Day. Change management would be implemented to involve workers in a safety management culture change.

PHOTO; SA DMR deputy chief inspector of mines in coastal and central regions, Thabo Dube, who also heads two mining research agencies, is setting up a mining OHS centre of excellence in 2013.

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COMMENT; SA OHS agencies need state co-ordination

Sheqafrica.com editor comments; The SA DMR 2012 initiative to co-ordinate the work of state agencies in mining health and safety with business initiatives, is most welcome, exciting, and long overdue.

Sheqafrica.com had been calling for the formation of a centre of sheq excellence, led by one or more universities, for three years. We have also called for collating of research results from various state and private agencies, and improving public access to these results.

An unfortunate feature of our practice is that our skills are divided among the disciplines of management, law, psychology, health, engineering, chemistry, environment (itself a multi-disciplinary field composed of biology, ecology, geology, chemistry) and quality (yet another multi-disciplinary field).

An unfortunate symptom of South African state administration, is that sheq legislation is divided among the departments of Labour, Minerals Resources, as well as Water and Environment.

Since all our universities are generalist in scope, we have yet to find centres of sheq research excellence, but there are notable centres of sheq teaching in construction safety at Nelson Mandela Metro University, OHS law at University of the Free State, environmental practice at North West University in Potchefstroom, explosives management at Unisa, engineering and sustainability at Wits, and quality management at Unisa.

Our practice suffers from lack of focus or marketing of tertiary research and teaching excellence in project management, behavioural management, occupational health, occupational hygiene, process management and related fields.

Above all, there is no tertiary research or teaching centre of sheq excellence in SA. We trust that the DMR initiative to co-ordinate state, state agency, services and business sheq efforts, would find the required support from the Department of Labour

The initiative should also serve to align state, academic and business initiatives, including;
• Department of Labour
• Compensation Fund
• National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS)
• CSIR
• Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA) as a Seta
• Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO)
• MHSC
• SIMRAC
• a lead university in mining OHS research
• Chamber of Mines (COM)
• COM Mining Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH) pilot projects
• Health and safety insurers in mining, construction and other sectors
• sheq training providers
• sheq consultants
• sheq auditors
• organised labour.

If DMR deputy chief inspector Dube succeeds in implementing even half of his plans for a centre of excellence in mining occupational health and safety research, then 2013 would mark a significant step forward to break the vicious circle of low level minig OHS research, skills, technology, culture and performance.

We have been spared some of the impacts of our pitiful state of OHS development due to the recent economic slowdown. If DMR does not align state agency and business efforts, the country, mining industry, workers and our practice would pay a much heavier price once the economic slowdown lifts. -Sheqafrica.com

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Edmond Furter

Editor at Sheqafrica.com
Edmond Furter is the editor of Sheqafrica.com. He is a freelance technical journalist, and has won six journalism awards. He specialises in industrial, business, and cultural content in web, journal, and book formats.