Deputy Minister Holomisa: SA strives for zero harm at mines

NOVEMBER 18, 2014

More should be done to address mine safety, Deputy Minister of Labour, Nkosi Phathekile Holomisa, said on Tuesday.

“Most importantly … is the social impact of these incidents. It is common knowledge that what happens at a workplace permeates through to society. The impact of occupational diseases contracted and injuries sustained at workplaces are felt beyond the gates of our workplaces,” he said.

The Deputy Minister was addressing the Mine Health and Safety Council summit under the theme “Every mine worker returning home unharmed every day, striving for zero harm”.

Injuries and diseases contracted at work have the potential to exacerbate the problem of unemployment, poverty and overburdens the social security and primary health care systems, he said.

“Lest we forget, the economy of this country is built on the backbones of workers. Workers too are citizens of this country,” he told those attending the summit.

The Deputy Minister said the notion of every mine worker returning home unharmed every day, requires a holistic overhaul and redefining of the industry and its role in society.

“Are mineworkers considered an important asset to companies that employ them? Is it possible for mining companies, without being cajoled by government policy or law, to invest in the upliftment of their workers and host communities?” remarked Deputy Minister Holomisa.

He also remarked that can it be possible for the industry to adhere to minimum health and safety standards without some enforcement or a government agency forcing them to do so.

“I am amazed by how loud business would scream for less government regulation and more self-regulation, yet when government creates an environment to promote self-regulation; most employers see that as a gap and/or weakness to be exploited.

“If we doubt that zero harm is attainable, then we are all accepting the notion that the mining industry is inherently dangerous and therefore contracting of occupational diseases and fatalities are the acceptable prices to be paid by workers. … I refuse to accept that accidents are inevitable occurrences to be expected and accepted,” said the Deputy Minister.

The mining sector has a reputation of having a high number of incidents.

“This has created a bad image for this sector which contributes significantly in our economy. Good companies have long recognised the importance of their image and reputation.” - SAnews.gov.za