The South African Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) set guidelines for the mining safety Code of Practice that employers have to compile.
On 5 February 2016 in Government Gazette 39656, the SA Department of Mineral Resources released guidelines for the compilation of an obligatory Code of Practice (COP) in order to ensure the health and safety of miners.
The Mining Occupational Health Advisory Committee (MOHAC) had proposed the drafting of a guideline for a mandatory COP on thermal stress.
The guideline covers both occupational hygiene and medical surveillance in order to ensure compliance with the Mine Health and Safety Act (MHSA).
Where the employer’s risk assessment reveals a need to establish and maintain a system of occupational hygiene measurements or system of medical surveillance, the employer must prepare and implement a COP based on these guidelines.
Thermal stress management aims to reduce human thermal stress and incidents of heat or cold disorders. Dealing with occupational thermal exposure involves primarily environmental engineering, administrative controls, and personal protection.
Guidelines do not detail requirements for specific situations. They are meant to help employers establish an Occupational Health Programme.
Guidelines set out a basic system for managing health risks, which involve clarifying situations and finding solutions.
The mining safety COP must include a General Information section with the following:
• Description of the mine and location
• Description of commodities produced
• List of mining method (or combination of methods) used at mine, outlining the degree of mechanization, identifying the potential sources of thermal stress
• Specification of general ventilation and/or cooling arrangements
• Specification of unique feature(s) of mine.
Mining risk management
Section 11 of the MHSA requires employers to;
• Identify and assess health and safety hazards to which employees may be exposed to at work
• Record the hazards identified and risks assessed
• Determine ways to eliminate risks
• Control risk at source, minimize risk
• Provide personal protective equipment (in so far as risk remains)
• Institute a programme to minimize risk.
Mining safety COP aspects
Where the employer’s risk assessment indicates the need for a system of occupational hygiene measurements or system of medical surveillance or where such a system is required by regulation, the following elements need to be addressed in the COP:
• Risk assessment and control
• Monitoring program
• Hierarchy of controls
• Medical surveillance
• Reporting and reviewing.
Mining investment risks rising
Speaking at the annual mining Indaba in Cape Town in February 2016, the new minister of Mineral Resources, Mosebenzi Zwane, called on mining companies to prioritise the health and safety of their workers following the death of four mineworkers at Impala Platinum Mine in Rustenburg after a fire broke out underground on 22 January.
The Indaba took place amidst the collapse of commodity prices, largely due to China’s economic slowdown. The four-day conference aims to provide insight on how investors, governments and corporates can partner together to improve operational efficiencies and reduce investment risks in the sector.
The South African mining sector is urging the government to create an enabling environment for business by ensuring regulatory and policy certainty in order to advance the restructuring of the industry.
Heavy job cuts in the South African mining industry are looming and miners are facing all-encompassing existential threats.
• Sources; Political Analysis SA
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