The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) has urged mining companies to put more focus on the health and safety of mineworkers during the final few months of the year, noting that fatalities are traditionally higher during this time.
The DMRE inspectorate would intensify the monitoring and evaluation of the mine health and safety management systems through inspections and audits for the remainder of the year, the department said on Tuesday.
“All mineworkers and supervisors are reminded that unsafe work practices can be fatal and may lead to undesirable circumstances. Wherever there is non-compliance to the regulations and a threat to the health and safety of any persons at mines, the department will not hesitate to issue instructions as guided by the Mine Health and Safety Act,” the DMRE emphasised.
The DMRE said it would ensure that mines put in place shift fatigue management systems that were continuously monitored, while drug and alcohol tests would be done frequently during afternoon and night shifts.
In cases where arrangements were in place for workers to work overtime, managers had to ensure proper supervision and that measures were in place to prevent accidents.
The increase in the number of fatalities and injuries at the end of the year was attributed to a variety of issues, including poor supervision, anxiety associated with the festive season, production pressures and associated incentives, as well as a lack of focus and complacency.
In many instances, the DMRE said, this resulted in workers taking short cuts and failing to comply with the applicable standards and procedures.
“All employees and employers are encouraged to place safety first in all work areas, and to apply zero tolerance on sub-standard work and conditions.
“Health and safety campaigns, visible leadership, zero tolerance to unsafe behaviour, and extra vigilance by all workers are exceptionally vital during this period. All employees are encouraged to collaborate with the Inspectorate and organised labour during the health and safety days and or campaigns,” the DMRE said.
Last year, 51 people died in South Africa’s mines and 2 406 occupational injuries were reported. The 2019 fatalities were the lowest on record and an improvement from the 81 deaths reported in 2018.