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"We must at all times avoid putting pressure on workers in pursuit of profit"

Unsurprisingly, gold has topped the list of fatal accidents per commodity given at South Africa’s 2018 Occupational Health and Safety Summit this week.
"We must at all times avoid putting pressure on workers in pursuit of profit" "We must at all times avoid putting pressure on workers in pursuit of profit" "We must at all times avoid putting pressure on workers in pursuit of profit" "We must at all times avoid putting pressure on workers in pursuit of profit" "We must at all times avoid putting pressure on workers in pursuit of profit"

Minister Gwede Mantashe addressing the Africa’s 2018 Occupational Health and Safety Summit

So far this year, there have been 21 fatal accidents in the gold mining sector with 36 people killed, according to deputy chief inspector of mines Xolile Mbonambi.

Over the same period last year there were 23 accidents, with 32 deaths.

Overall, there have been 46 fatal accidents this year with 69 miners killed, compared with 58 accidents and 70 deaths in 2017.

In contrast to gold, the platinum industry saw a noticeable improvement, with fatal accidents reduced from 21 last year to eight this year so far, and the number of deaths down to nine from 23 in 2017.

There was also a slight reduction in coal fatalities from eight to seven, although "other" commodities got worse, with the number of fatal accidents increasing from six to 11, and people killed up to 17 from seven the previous year.

Minister of mineral resources Gwede Mantashe, who led the summit with the Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC), said there had been numerous mining accidents since he had joined the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) in February.

He called for the lives of miners to be taken more seriously and said companies should strive for zero harm.

"Every life lost is one life more ... we must at all times avoid putting pressure on workers in pursuit of profit," he said.

Mantashe said unions had the responsibility to educate workers on their rights to refuse to enter dangerous working environments.

National Union of Mineworkers president Joseph Montisetsi agreed safety had to improve.

"All of us must be ready to commit ourselves and ensure that no mineworker is killed in our mines due to negligence. That can be achieved," he said.

Other unions, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, UASA and Solidarity, had similar sentiments, calling for safety to be put first and miners to withdraw from dangerous workplaces.

Minerals Council South Africa (MCSA) vice president Neal Froneman said the council supported any worker who feared they were working in unsafe conditions to withdraw from those areas until they were safe to work in.

He also highlighted the work the council had been doing concerning health and safety, including the recently launched safety and health day campaign and its zero harm forum that addressed safety and health issues regularly.

"All this work shows that there is no single solution to mine health and safety. We have to keep working on a broad range of issues and levels and more importantly all stakeholders have a responsibility to work together if the goal of zero harm is to be achieved," he said.

Froneman is CEO of Sibanye-Stillwater, which has seen the majority of gold industry fatal accidents this year.