Health and Safety in the Mining industry

Occupational health and safety hazards whether they are physical, chemical, biological, mechanical or psychological, can affect any industry be it agriculture, construction, manufacturing units and even the healthcare sector. However, the one industry most commonly and severely affected is the mining industry.

 

With increasing demand of minerals, more and more people are employed in this industry which involves hazardous tasks and thus, proper safety training and measures are required to protect the workers from the dangerous diseases or disabilities that can result from them. The various factors that pose a threat to mine workers include injuries by accidents, exposure to dust, chemicals, toxic fumes, extreme temperature or humidity, noise and vibration and so forth.  Apart from these, the possibility of fire, explosion, flood or collapse can lead to large scale destruction and thus, mining safety occupies a vital place in the functioning of the industry.

 

The training of mine workers aims at the following:

  • ¬∑ Providing clear instructions on the procedures and on handling equipment.
  • ¬∑ Training on necessary safety precautions required while working.
  • ¬∑ Identifying the risk factors and ways to avoid them.
  • ¬∑ Mandatory use of machine guards, masks, gloves and other protective¬†gear while working or handling equipment.
  • ¬∑ Training on combating emergencies, if any.
  • ¬∑ Special lifting training as lifting heavy or oversized loads can lead to spinal

injuries and pose a risk to the health of the employees.

  • ¬∑ Provision and usage of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as

helmets, safety glasses, respirators, face shields, ear plugs etc. while at work.

  • ¬∑ Proper care, maintenance and disposal of PPE‚Äôs.

With different countries making efforts and laws to safeguard the health and safety of mine workers, the government of South Africa established The Mine Health and Safety Inspectorate on the terms of the Mine Health and Safety Act No. 29, 1996 (as amended). The main objectives of this act was to protect the health and safety of mine employees by ensuring owner’s responsibility to provide health and safety training, identifying hazardous factors, investigating and eliminating them, controlling and minimizing the risk to employees, employing hygienists, providing medical attention etc.

With regulations of the Mine Health and Safety Act and the establishment of Mine Health and Safety Inspectorate, a steady improvement was witnessed in the performance of the South African Mining Industry. Though coal, platinum and other mineral mines showed satisfactory performance, the injury and

fatality rates remained high in the case of underground gold mines. This called for an improvement in the prevention of occupational hazards and application of more resources to deal with the matter. The permanent committees of the Mine Health and State Council were established in 1997 whose duties were to advise the Minister of Mineral Resources on mining health and safety, co-ordinate the activities of the committees and mediate with the Mining Qualifications Authority which consists of the state, employer as well as the organizations in the mining industry.

As the mining environment poses much higher risks to its workers as compared to other industries, it requires thorough understanding and awareness in order to prevent the occurrences of accidents or illnesses at the workplace.

This article aims to increase awareness of the importance of health and safety training, as well as to provide information about the mining industry, particularly in South Africa. For more information about the health and safety courses we offer, please get in contact with us.

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