12 October, 2023IndustriALL affiliate the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is planning protests for better occupational health and safety due to the high number of workers dying in mine accidents.
The NUM, is protesting against the high rate of fatal accidents in the mining sector especially in gold mining, and will picket at multinational companies, Harmony Gold, and Sibanye Stillwater mines.
In 2021, 74 deaths were reported while 49 mineworkers were killed last year from accidents. The NUM reported that by September this year 27 mineworkers had been killed in accidents.
“The union is greatly concerned by the high rate of fatal accidents in the sector. To us, the lives of mineworkers matter the most. We will not tolerate the continued brutal killings of our members while working, trying to provide for their families. Already in 2023, the mining sector has reported 27 fatal accidents. The gold sector is leading with 15, coal sector has four, platinum sector also has four, and other sectors have four,”
said the NUM in a statement.
With the mining industry in South Africa adopting technologies that include seismic sensors, big data, and information technology to improve operations, this might have a positive effect on occupational health and safety as fatal accidents may be further reduced. The technologies that are being used include automated underground mining which reduces accidents in drilling, blasting, loading, and hauling. Other technologies are proximity detection and collision warning systems for workers including machine operators and rock fall prevention systems.
Glen Mpufane, IndustriALL director for mining said:
“Whilst the deaths from mining accidents are decreasing; a lot needs to be done as workers are still losing their lives. But with the laws, policies, and technology that exist more lives can be saved. The role of the health and safety shop steward at the mines continues to be key to reducing injuries and deaths.”
The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, says the government continues to commit to implementing policies towards zero harm and to ensure that safer technologies and mining practices are adopted to reduce accidents. Further, the department monitors and enforces health and safety at mines through inspections and audits. It also works with trade unions, mining companies and other stakeholders in campaigns to raise awareness about the importance of complying with health and safety protocols.
Under the Mine Health and Safety Act, workers’ have a right to refuse to work in dangerous areas where their health and safety is at risk. The Act also promotes identifying hazards and developing measures to eliminate, control and minimize risks to occupational health and safety through tripartite and multistakeholder strategies and for the setting up of health and safety representatives and committees.