JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Covid-19 prevention, mitigation and management programmes must be established at mines using the guideline gazetted by Chief Inspector of Mines David Msiza on Tuesday.
The gazette notice states that this guideline provides minimum requirements for the compilation of a code of practice (COP) to prevent and manage Covid outbreak.
The aim, the gazette notice adds, is to ensure that returning mine employees are protected from workplace transmission of the coronavirus and, where reasonably practicable, in the community.
Failure by the employer to prepare and implement the mine’s COP in line with this guideline constitutes a criminal offence and a breach of the Mine Health and Safety Act, Section 11, which requires mine employers to identify hazards and assess the health and safety risks to which employees may be exposed.
The startup procedures outlined include disinfecting vehicles, change houses, lamp rooms, refuge bays, offices, accommodation, guard houses, food areas and screening centres.
Employees returning from Covid-19 epicentres must be quarantined for 14 days before they return to work.
Dedicated 24-hour hotlines must be provided to allow employees to reach the mine’s dedicated healthcare workers, with COP considerations including the provision of training material on proper hygiene practices and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
The determination of the appropriate PPE used must be done on expert advice on the characteristics and limitations of each type of PPE.
Physical distancing of between one metre and two metres must be applied and relevant PPE provided for mass transport.
Infection prevention and control measures must be applied when employees arrive at mine premises, with hand hygiene practices being included in underground work places.
A system must be put in place to screen non-employees entering mine premises, with anyone failing screening being denied access and advised to seek medical assistance.
Employees with elevated temperatures must be referred for further healthcare-worker assessment, with all employees being screened daily and pre-shift screening including temperature checks.
Fasken attorneys Neil Searle and Owethu Mbambo stated that the guideline sets out comprehensive and often complex duties to be addressed by employers in their mandatory COPs.
The guideline will become effective on May 25.
“Employers are therefore advised to immediately commence with the necessary preparations,” Searle and Mbambo advised.
An employer must appoint a Covid compliance officer to provide oversight on the implementation of the guideline. Each mine must submit a monthly report to the principal inspector of mines and employers are obliged ensure that the COP and related documents are kept readily available at the mine for examination by any affected person and a copy is provided to a registered trade union with members at the mine or health and safety representatives.