Mines urged to beef up employee screening with Covid-19 deaths on the rise
JOHANNESBURG – The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) has called on the mines to beef up the screening of employees as the mining industry confirmed that Covid-19 deaths had jumped to 45.
Speaking during the virtual launch of the Mineral Council South Africa's National Day of Health and Safety, David Msiza, the chief inspector of mines, said on Friday that the DMRE had conducted 1 700 inspections in the mines and found that while the bigger mines had implemented safety protocols.
“Screening is not conducted regularly by some of the mines. We are encouraging mines to ensure that screening should not only be just about taking the person’s temperature, but it should be a full screening in terms of the guidelines, including asking the relevant questions daily that should be happening in some of the mines it is not happening,” Msiza said, adding that the mining industry should be commended for assisting the Department of Health and mining communities.
Msiza also pleaded with the industry to assist vulnerable employees.
“We have noted in some of the mines where we have done inspections that we need to strengthen and enhance our intervention and strategies of protecting vulnerable employees. We would like to plead with the sector to look into this matter to have strategies to deal with it,” said Msiza.
On Friday there were 5 396 confirmed Covid-19 positive cases in the industry including 2 853 in platinum mines, 1 450 in the gold mines, 693 the coal mines and 2 from other mines.
Mineral Resources and Energy Minister, Gwede Mantashe, also tested positive to the virus last week.
Kumba Iron Ore chief executive and council representative, Themba Mkhwanazi, said the mining industry’s rate of testing was currently 63 percent higher than that of the country.
“So no one should be surprised that the incidence rate detected in our industry is similarly higher than for the country as a whole,” Mkhwanazi said.
The DMRE was forced to ensure that mines implemented safety protocols after the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union approached the court to compel the department to tighten safety measures when employees returned to work as lockdown regulations were relaxed.
Mkhwanazi said the industry had 4 percent reduction year-to-date, 23 fatalities compared to 24 during the same period last year.
“When we take into account the fewer number of shifts worked in the period due to the lockdown, it does regrettably mean a poorer safety performance,” Mkhwanazi said.
Mzwakhe Nhlapo, the national head for health and safety at the National Union of Mineworkers said the fatalities to date were concerning.
“Mines have not been operating for some time during the lockdown. For us as unions, we are very concerned. Had we not stopped operating we would have exceeded fatalities from last year, Nhlapo said.
The mining industry recorded 37 percent decline in fatalities to 51 fatalities in 2109 , the lowest on record, from 81 fatalities in 2018.