With the strike in the platinum industry possibly coming to an end soon, the focus will now shift to the re-integration of workers back into the working environment, which includes an extensive training program and medical examinations, together with planned workplace inspections. The integration period is potentially high risk in terms of health and safety issues, and will require commitment from all stakeholders.
According to Warren Beech, partner and head of mining at Hogan Lovells, there are three particular impacts in terms of health and safety risks following strikes:
(a) the working place deteriorates as a natural consequence of operations having stopped,
(b) the mining ‘rhythm’ is interrupted which impacts on the safety performance of the crews and
(c) the trust relationship amongst crew members and management can be negatively impacted.
It is essential that all three be addressed, but the primary focus is on the first two which will require special risk assessments, the drafting of special procedures and retraining of employees, as well as increased supervision.
These risks mean that although the strike might end, employees in all likelihood cannot return immediately to work given the potentially unsafe environment – resulting in a further impact on production and the bottom line.
The four-month strike at Lonmin , Impala Platinum (Implats), and Anglo Platinum (Amplats) has been ongoing since January 23, when workers downed tools and demanded a basic monthly salary of R12 500. The mines’ latest offer would see workers earn a minimum cash remuneration – comprising basic wages and holiday, living-out and other allowances – of R12 500 a month by 2017.
Newly-appointed Mineral Resources Minister Advocate Ngoako Ramatlhodi has met with the CEOs of platinum mining companies in Pretoria today, during which a proposal from the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) was presented.
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