Trade union Solidarity has acknowledged South Africa’s improvement in its health and safety statistics for 2019 but notes that there is still room for improvement, particularly with regards to the number of injuries in the industry.

“There has been a 2% decrease in the number of injuries, from 2 447 in 2018 to 2 406 in 2019. We are thankful for the decrease, but are concerned that it is only 2%,” says Paul Mardon, Deputy General Secretary of Strategy and Sustainability at Solidarity.

“The number of injuries is usually seen as an indicator of the health of safety management systems and should be much higher, even much higher than the percentage decrease in fatalities. This could mean that the decrease in fatalities could be ascribed to pure luck,” Mardon continues.

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Solidarity’s concerns regarding mining related fatalities and injuries reported in 2019 falls on the back of the occupation health and safety statistics for 2019, released by the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy on Friday.

“The mining industry strives towards Zero Harm therefore, although we welcome the improvement in numbers of fatalities and injuries, we must not forget that we are talking about 51 people who have lost their lives in mines,” Mardon notes.

This downward trend in fatalities and injuries is welcomed, but we call on all mines, mine management and all workers to let these improvements renew their energy, focus and dedication towards achieving Zero Harm.”

At the end of 2018, there were 79 fatalities whilst 2019 closed off with an all-time low of 51 fatalities – an improvement of 37%. This is also an improvement of 36% on the previous lowest record year, 2016, where the year closed off with 72 fatalities. Another encouraging aspect is that there were no mining disasters during 2019.

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Mardon admits that there is further reason to celebrate when it comes to mining-related diseases, where the statistics showed an improvement of 23%.

The reporting of mining-related diseases also showed an improvement during the past few years. Cases of noise-induced hearing loss have reduced by 22%; cases of silicosis have come down by 29% and cases of pulmonary TB decreased by 24%.

Occupational diseases constituted the cause of 86% of all mining-related fatalities, not safety incidents.

“Solidarity commends and credits the mining industry for the good cooperation of the tripartite stakeholders when it comes to health and safety in the mines. We once again call on all stakeholders in mining – employers, the state and all trade unions, including inter-union cooperation – to improve this cooperation and to not lose heart in pursuing Zero Harm in the mining industry,” Mardon concludes.