1 September, 2022Pakistan’s mining industry is riddled with workplace safety violations and occupational disease. Exposure to coal dust leads to various health issues, including serious lung and heart ailments and spinal injuries. Add to that the dangers of methane gas poisoning, suffocation, underground explosions, or mine walls collapsing, leading to numerous fatalities every year.
According to IndustriALL affiliates there has been around 60 accidents in Pakistan’s mines this year, killing more than 90 workers and severely injuring around 40.
In a tripartite consultation organized with the support of IndustriALL affiliate the Australian Manufacturing and Energy Union on 18 August in Pakistan, employers, government representatives and the Pakistan Central Mines Labour Federation (PCMLF) agreed on the importance of working together for safe mining.
Participants all agreed that occupational health and safety is a top priority, and discussed the importance of safety equipment on mining sites, including rescue apparatus, adequate lighting, firefighting equipment, methane gas detection equipment, and proper ventilation system.
“Mine owners must take responsibility to ensure workers’ health and safety. They need to provide training so that work can be carried out safely, and also inform workers about the occupational hazards associated in mining. We urge the government to carry out periodic inspections of mining sites to identify lapses in safety mechanisms,”
said Sultan Khan, PCMLF general secretary.
The government’s mine inspector argued that mine owners are held accountable when not following operating procedures and are charged with a hefty fine if safety lapses are found during inspections, a statement contradicted by the unions.
Pakistani law requires one doctor and an ambulance at every mining site, but this is not implemented. As there are no hospitals or pharmacies for miles around the mines, workers are robbed of emergency care in the event of an accident.
The employers argued that workers’ negligence also cause accidents, which was refuted by unions saying that safety is management’s responsibility.
“There is a complete lack of safety protocols in Pakistan’s mining areas. Employers must invest in safety infrastructure to prevent workplace accidents. We call on the government of Pakistan to ratify the Convention 176,”
said Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary.
Attendance records are often poorly kept, which not only promotes wage theft but also results in denial of compensation in case of death and/or injury.
The lack of access to drinking water or restroom facilities at work, as well as the fact that workers are paid poverty wages and are not covered by social security, were some of the other issues that were raised by union members.