DMR reviews guidelines for issuing Section 54’s due to pressure from UASA
The Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) has agreed to suspend the Withdrawal of Certificates of Competence in terms of Section 54 of the Mines Heath and Safety Act at South Africa’s mines until the DMR has finalised a guideline in this regard due to the pressure from the trade union UASA and the Chamber of Mines.
UASA has emphasised several times in the recent past that although Section 54 of the Mine Health and Safety Act has no doubt saved many lives, the fact that often all the activities at mines are halted while an incident only affects one specific plant or a workplace, is costing the industry up to R4,6 billion per annum.
Franz Stehring, UASA’s Divisional Manager responsible for the mining workers' sector, says the DMR’s intervention in this matter is long overdue.
Stehring says the problem that has been experienced at mines, is that mine inspectors suspend the certificates of competence of supervisors and managers without following due procedure as prescribed by the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act 3 of 2000 (PAJA).
The DMR’s acting chief inspector, David Msiza, has indicated to UASA that a final enforcement guideline, including a detailed guide on Section 54 notifications, will soon be made available and should be implemented by 1 April this year.
Msiza told UASA that the DMR is preparing a guideline on the withdrawal of certificates of competence and that all withdrawals had been suspended until this guideline is complete. The DMR is also preparing a guideline on administrative fines.
Msiza indicated that he was willing to continue engagement in health and safety issues, including help that the industry could provide to the inspectorate on capacity, their new information management system, etc. In such an engagement, he would also want to speak about the slow adoption of best practices.
Msiza promised to provideUASA with more detailed information on the 2011 fatalities to see if more targeted short-term actions could be considered that could stem increase in fatalities.
UASA has warned in the past that inadequate training and education of underground workers and the manner in which Section 54 notifications are issued are two of the main reasons why billions of rands go to waste every year.
Stehring says there will, of course, always be costs associated with health and safety in the workplace. The problem is that, in terms of Section 54, an inspector could halt all activities at a mine or part of a mine if he suspects that conditions endanger health and safety.
If inspectors were to be more circumspect with the issuing of Section 54 notices, the losses suffered in the industry could be curbed extensively, thereby saving jobs and making funds available to remunerate miners appropriately. He, however, believes that significant savings could be generated if mining inspectors would issue Section 54 notifications with greater circumspection.
It is for this reason that UASA put pressure on the DMR to review the manner in which certificates of competence are withdrawn or were issued with a view to provide strict guidelines for inspectors to adhere to.
Stehring says that, since 2009, South Africa’s three main mining houses, Gold Fields, Harmony and Anglo, on average, have 60 compliance orders under Section 54 with cost implications served against each of them every year for a variety of reasons, such as sub-standard safety measures.
History shows that each of these notifications on average takes three days to be resolved, which means three days of zero production at affected sections, shafts or mines.
Stehring points out that these days of zero production mean losses of approximately R6 million per day which directly affect profits. Quantifying the potential loss to only the three mining houses mentioned over a period of one year, means that the mining industry loses an approximate R3,24 billion per annum.
“One death in the industry is one too many – hence the development of best practice principles and procedures as a means to avoid or minimise fatalities in the industry carries UASA’s full support and constructive participation,” says Stehring.