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The Department of Mineral Resources and its tripartite stakeholders have reviewed the health and safety performance of the mining sector and developed strategies to accelerate the achievement of the goal of zero harm.

This was undertaken at the Mine Health and Safety Summit, which was held from 18 and 19 October 2018 in Johannesburg.

The Summit revealed that the ten years to 2017 were positive for the sector, as it recorded a downward trend in fatalities. The upward movement seen at the end of 2017 is therefore concerning and requires decisive intervention.

Unfortunately, while the Summit was in progress, five workers lost their lives due to mine accidents. This means that 74 workers have lost their lives this year.  The Department of Mineral Resources has since dispatched a team of inspectors to the respective sites to commence with in-loco inspections.

“These most recent accidents challenge the stakeholders to work with even more urgency in resolving the challenges the industry faces that impede it from reaching the goal of zero harm,” the Department of Mineral Resources said.

“As we move towards the end of the year, it is critical that employers, employees and the department remain extra vigilant,” the Department added.

Historical data on mine accidents has revealed that above 27% of occupational fatalities reported on an annual basis occur during the last quarter of the calendar year. The increase in fatalities and injuries is mainly attributed to production pressures associated with performance incentives; poor supervision; anxiety of the festive season; lack of focus and complacency.

All employers and employees are encouraged to work safely and apply zero tolerance on substandard work and conditions. Shift fatigue management systems must be implemented and continuously monitored. In cases where arrangements are made for workers to work overtime, managers must ensure that proper supervision is carried out by all responsible mine personnel and measures are implemented to prevent accidents.

Inspectors from the Department will also intensify the monitoring and enforcement of the law through inspections and audits during the remaining period of the year. All mineworkers and supervisors are reminded that unsafe work practices may lead to undesirable circumstances.

All CEOs of mining companies are called upon to host Health and Safety Days from now until the end of January 2019, to ensure that every mineworker is able to enjoy their festive season and beyond, with their families and loved ones.

"We must continue to work with the necessary resolve, so we can have a healthy and safe sector that is transformed, productive and competence sector," the department said, adding that zero harm in the mining sector is possible.