Occupational Health and Safety in the Mining Industry

Below are extracts from two papers concerning health and safety in the mining industry.  Those who are interested can read further – please follow the links provided to the original articles.


Occupational health and safety in mining—status, new developments, and concerns
by M.A. Hermanus


This paper examines the occupational health and safety performance (OHS) of the South African mining sector against the backdrop of changes in the composition of the sector, international trends in OHS performance, and the agreement on OHS milestones and targets by mining stakeholders at the Mine Health and Safety Summit of 2003. Although OHS performance has improved, progress is slow and there is need for significant rather than incremental change if the targets are to be realized. Since 2003, fatalities and
injuries are 20–25% short of annual milestones and not all commodities show consistent improvement. Statistics on occupational health impacts are unavailable, but noise and respirable dust levels are known to be high in mines, with much work lying ahead to address exposures at source. Trends in regulating and addressing OHS hazards are discussed with reference to the notion of ‘systemsthinking’ and the targets.

Efforts to improve OHS and to respond to changes in the sector are constrained by a lack of training and
consistency in risk management, guidance for junior, small and artisanal miners, and holistic approaches to risk. For example, treating risk holistically would involve taking proper account of contractors and women in the workplace, and attending to human factors and ergonomics.”

Health and Safety

Occupational health and safety challenges…South African gold & platinum mines

Occupational Health Southern Africa


Historically, the mining industry has been a male-dominated sector and it has been a challenge to introduce and ensure full incorporation of women into this sector.1 The employment of women in the South African mines, since 2004, is a relatively new phenomenon.1,2 As such; the South African government adopted a number of strategies aimed at opening up the mining sector for previously disadvantaged individuals, including women as part of its economic empowerment policy, and in line with the mining charter and the Employment Equity Act. 2,3

Compared to their male counterparts, women in mining (WIM) have unique health and safety needs resulting from their anatomical and physiological makeup. Of equal ­importance is the fact that the International Labour Organization has classified women workers as “vulnerable workers” with special occupational health and safety needs 4, and WIM are no exception. This is compounded by the fact that there is a paucity of published data on occupational health and safety (OH&S) issues concerning WIM.

In general, women workers face equal but also ­different OH&S challenges at work compared to men. However, because women workers are vulnerable, they tend to suffer the most from work-related diseases, including musculo­skeletal and reproductive problems, compared to their male counterparts.5 This clearly indicates the need to protect and promote women’s OH&S at work, by addressing issues that are unique to them. In addition, the Safety and Health in Mines Convention C176 of (1995) was ratified by South Africa on the 9th of June 2009, which recognises the desirability to prevent any fatalities, injuries or ill health affecting workers or members of the public, or damage to the environment arising from mining operations.6

In South Africa, Mine Health and Safety Act (MHSA), No 29 of 1996 as amended provides for the monitoring of conditions that will promote a culture of OH&S in the mining industry and protect mine workers and other persons at mines.7 However, it has not made specific provision for gender specifications regarding OH&S conditions in the mines. This paper describes socio-demographic characteristics and explores OH&S challenges reported by WIM in two mines. Recommendations are made that should contribute to the improvement of the OH&S of WIM.”

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