CAPE TOWN – The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on Friday called on its structures in the mines to confront management and employers whenever there are health and safety deviations or substandard working conditions.
In a statement, the NUM said that workers must exercise their right to refuse to work in a dangerous workplace and must not be victimised for doing so as they are empowered by the Mine Health and Safety Act.
Peter Bailey, NUM chairperson for health and safety, said that the union was very disappointed by the recent incidents and accidents at Sibanye-Stillwater mines after two workers died in a fall-of-ground accident at Kloof gold mine in Gauteng on Wednesday and about 1 000 were trapped underground as a result of power failure at Beatrix gold mine in the Free State.
Bailey said that the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) inspectorate must pull up its socks and pay consistent visits to the mines to ensure compliance in a bid to save lives.
"NUM is worried by the failure of the DMR minister Mosebenzi Zwane to attend to health and safety activities, some were postponed last year because of his non-availability and it is not clear when he will be available, especially for the health and safety dialogue by the principals of the industry on health and safety issues," Bailey said.
"We call upon DMR minister to instruct the inspectors to do health and safety audit on the contingency plans of the companies and the state of readiness when there is a disaster. We must applaud those mining houses that were able to mine for 12 months or more without a fatal. Through those mining houses, we believe that zero harm is achievable."
The national health and safety committee of the NUM met on Thursday and Friday to discuss health and safety challenges facing its members and workers in general in the mining, energy and construction sectors where the union organises.