Health and Safety in Mining

A Unique Bond

Mining and health and safety are uniquely bound. One cannot have a discussion about mining without including the prevailing health and safety issues inherent in mining, whether in South Africa or across the globe. Mining is one of South Africa’s most fundamental economic industries and begs the obvious need, at minimum, to keep people alive in this work environment. Are South Africans able to adopt a lifestyle where they can live without unsafe living conditions, crime and violence? It seems that a life of safety and comfort without daily risks would render people immobile. From the moment one travels by taxi, or walks seven kilometers to school, to traveling by car on treacherous roads where drivers are impatient, prone to road rage and drunken driving, South Africans seem nonchalant about the sacredness of life and are quite happy to gamble with it. Does this affect the attitudes of mine workers towards their personal safety and that of their fellow workers? Has the tolerance to living dangerously rendered human life worthless? Although China has some horrible statistics, coal mining being the most deadly, the South African mines have a fatality and injury rate three times the equivalent in developed countries such as Canada and Australia. This is despite having health and safety legislation on a par with those countries. It seems acceptable and endemic to the South African culture to survive the perilous and fatal. South African mine workers seem prepared to take higher risks with their lives because of prevailing circumstances and the need to work and provide for their families. Do mine workers feel that they are cared for and valued as individuals by mining companies in South Africa? Perhaps there is more that can be done to improve conditions for mine workers so that the attitude of individual miners toward their own safety and the safety of their fellow workers is more positive, valued and accountable. Being healthy and safe is a lifestyle; the adoption of living in a particular way. Are mine workers empowered and authorized to make safe and healthy lifestyle decisions?

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