Mine Health and Safety Council & Inspectorate: Strategic Plan 2011

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Mineral Resources and Energy

14 June 2011
Chairperson: Mr F Gona (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC) briefed the Portfolio Committee on its Strategic Plan. Its mandate included giving advice to the Minister on occupational health and safety issues in the mining industry, reviewing and developing legislation, promoting health and safety in the industry, overseeing research around health and safety and liaising with other relevant bodies. The targets were outlined, and it was stressed that the MHSC was required, by the Mine Health and Safety Act, to hold summits every two years to review performance, look at achievements and reassess its plans. Certain targets were set in 2003 in relation to reduction of deaths and fatalities, firstly reduction, and then elimination of silicosis exposure results and new cases, and for reduction and elimination of noise-induced hearing loss, by lowering of decibel levels emitted by equipment. The strategic plan was based upon the four pillars of customers and stakeholder needs, internal perspective, learning and growth and finances. The main aims and focal areas of each were outlined. It was noted that 80% of the Council’s income came from levies paid by mines and sustainability was an important aspect. The current research areas included rock falls, rock bursts, airborne particulate matter, silicosis, acid mine drainage, dust and impact on communities, integration of seismic networks, and Protective Personal Equipment for women involved in underground work. The MHSC announced plans to establish a Centre of Excellence. It would be holding a HIV/AIDS and TB Summit in July 2011 and the Summit in September 2011. It was also focusing on better technology and research transfer. Although the mining industry had made some strides recently, it still faced major challenges, particularly in reducing deaths and injuries, which were at 200 in 2008. The MHSC declared that it was possible to achieve “zero harm” in the industry, through the proper legislative programme, research, promotion, collaboration and advice. It presented financial statements, showing that 91% of its income was revenue collected from mines in the form of levies, calculated according to risk, whereas 9% was an allocation from the Department of Mineral Resources.

Members noted that they had, in the past, questioned why the level of 110dB was set as a target, although the Mine Health and Safety Act set out an Occupational Exposure limit of 85dB. They were not satisfied with the response that further protective measures could reduce the dB exposure to workers, and asked for a full report after the Summit. They also questioned other limits, particularly for silicosis, asking whether this was in line with legislative requirements. Members also asked how the “champion mines” were selected, and what relationship the MHSC had with them, and non-testing mines. Members stressed that the Department of Mineral Resources had a large part to play in ensuring that working environments did not contribute to accidents, through proper monitoring, and felt that it was not healthy that the mines and Department should be competing for skilled staff. They asked about the impact of the research, asked how improvements in health and safety could run alongside bonus payments and arrangements for overtime, and asked about the results of research into acid mine drainage and effect of dust on communities close to mines. Further questions related to lessons learned from other countries, whether South Africa was implementing best practices, and how the Centre of Excellence would assist in attracting scholars and graduates to the industry and contributing to their development. Members also asked why the MHSC had insufficient internal research capacity, how it would cooperate with new entrants into the industry, how development through mechanisation could be balanced against the need to create jobs, and whether there was a need to amend the Mine Health and Safety Act to assist the Council in its work. 
The Acting Chairperson noted that the MQA seemed to be doing a lot of work, including financing studies, and its strategy should be aligned with that of MHSC, so that training could be synchronised and training funds spent more efficiently.

Meeting report

Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC) Strategic Plan 2011: Briefing
Mr Thabo Gazi, Chief Executive Officer, Mine Health and Safety Council, briefed the Committee on the Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC or the Council) strategic plans. He noted that the Council’s mandate included giving advice to the Minister on all occupational health and safety issues in the mining industry relating to legislation, research and promotion. It must also review and develop legislation for recommendation to the Minister, promote health and safety in the mining industry, oversee research in relation to health and safety in the mining industry, and liaise with other appropriate bodies on this.

He presented the organisational structure (see attached presentation) and outlined the history of the
development of safety standards over the last 100 years, as well as setting out the targets.

Mr Gazi noted that the MHSC held a summit every two years to review performance, to look achievements and to reassess aspect of its plans that had not produced the desired results. In 2003, where specific milestones were set regarding fatalities and injuries, in light of the then-death rate of about 300 miners per year, with gold mining identified as the major contributor at that time. That summit then set a target of trying to bring the deaths down at least to the international benchmark of one fatality for every 33 million hours worked, as opposed to the then rate of one fatality per 7 million hours. A further target related to silicosis, and said that by December 2008, 95% of all exposure measurement results would be below the occupational exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica of 0.1 mg/m3. A further target was to ensure that mo new cases of silicosis should/would occur amongst previously unexposed individuals, after December 2013. The target set towards the elimination of Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) was that after December no deterioration in hearing greater that 10% should be found amongst occupationally exposed individuals. By December 2013 the total noise emitted by all equipment installed in any workplace must not exceed a sound pressure level of 110dB.

Mr Gazi said that at a previous engagement with the Committee, Members had queried the 110dB, since the legislation mentioned 85dB. Mr Gazi explained that even if a machine was emitting a noise level of 110dB, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) could reduce it by a further 30dB, down to the required level of 85dB which was the required level. The focus was now on personal monitoring.

Mr Gazi noted that these targets were not set by MHSC, but at a sectoral level. A sectoral summit in September 2011 would re-assess those targets.

Mr Gazi noted that the MHSC strategic plan was structured in the format of a balanced score card, which forced an overview of the whole business. This plan looked at the needs of the MHSC from four different perspectives: namely, the Customer/Stakeholder Perspective, the Internal Perspective, the Learning and Growth Perspective and the Financial Perspective.

The core aspects under the Customer/Stakeholder Perspective were the need to transform the health and safety culture of the mining industry, to advise the Minister on mining health and safety legislation, and to foster a tripartite relationship between business, labour and state, which was the foundation of the MHSC. Frameworks, guidelines and principles were being developed to effectively change real mining practices that would lead to reduced occupational risk and diseases. The first chapter of the Mining Act articulated the importance of promoting a culture of health and safety in the mining industry. In 1994, a section of the Leon Commission report outlined the need to improve the culture of health and safety in South African mines.

The Internal Perspective aimed to achieve business efficacy by streamlining MHSC procedures and adhering to processes and timeframes. This necessitated a good understanding of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) current and future needs, as well as stakeholder needs and expectations, and doing focussed research, adopting and sharing best practice. The MHSC was working with champion mines on research. It implemented systems to ensure that the outcomes of research were published and that best practices were implemented.

The Learning and Growth perspective involved attracting, developing and retaining the appropriate staff and committee members, embedding core ethical values, and building a culture of accountability.

The Financial Perspective involved improving revenue collection, improving the cost structure and managing risks. Sustainability was important, because more than 80% of the Council’s income came from levies. Every year the MHSC looked at all the accidents reported, and would then develop a risk profile for the individual mines, which would form the basis of the levy calculations. R50 million in levies was collected during the previous year. There were outstanding debts, but the MHSC put processes in place to recover these.
The MHSC’s current areas of research focus were rockfalls, rock bursts, airborne particulate matter, silicosis, acid mine drainage, dust and impact on communities, integration of seismic networks, and Protective Personal Equipment for women involved in underground work.

Mr Gazi outlined some of the specific plans for the forthcoming year. The MHSC would implement a
Culture Transformation Framework, and establish a Centre of Excellence. An HIV/AIDS and TB Summit was planned for July 2011, and the biennial OHS summit would take place in September 2011. There would also be other promotional events on MHSC and OHS issues. Research and technology transfer would be taking place.

Mr Gazi said that the road to reaching “zero harm” would be long, winding and bumpy. The
South African mining industry had achieved major successes, but it faced constant challenges. In 1987/88, 850 people were injured or killed. In 1994/95, when the Leon Commission was instituted, the death and injury figure was around 500. This dropped to 450 in 1997, 300 in 2003, and 200 in 2008, when a Leadership Summit and Presidential Audit was held. This showed a downward trend in numbers of fatalities and injuries. It had been questioned whether “zero harm” in the South African mining industry was a myth or a possibility. MHSC believed that it was a real possibility, provided that the correct legislative programme, research, promotion, collaboration and advice were followed. MHSC was on the right path and, through continued effort, would achieve its goal of improving the livelihood of mineworkers.

Mr David Msaza, Acting Chairperson, MHSC, conveyed the apologies of the Minister, who was attending another meeting. He added that the greatest challenges to the MHSC were repeat accidents and health issues. It was of great concern that sustainable improvement had not been shown. Although the industry had made some good progress towards the end of 2010, there had been set-backs in the first quarter of 2011. He believed that the MHSC had an important role to play in the industry’s sustainable improvement. Mr Gazi had already noted the necessity to improve on internal processes and systems, to ensure better promotion of the positive work that was being done through research and technology transfer. The Council had a most positive aspect of representation from labour, business and the State was represented there, and all three sectors shared common objectives of achieving employee health and safety.

Mr David Molapo, Chief Financial Officer, MHSC, referred Members to the last page of the strategic plan document, where the financial report was set out. He said that 91% (R51. 578 million) of the income of the MHSC was revenue collected directly from the mines, while 9% (R5.358 million) was an allocation from the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR). 20% of the income was allocated to staff expenses and 54% to research and health promotion matters. The budget was aligned to the strategy. The spending of all subsections was closely monitored and controlled, to ensure that funds were not only spent on approved programmes, but were within the approved budget.

He said that the MHSC had closed its 2010/11 books by the end of April and the auditing process was going very well.

Adv H Schmidt (DA) said that fatalities were not only the responsibility of mining houses, but also of the unions and the DMR. The Department had a regulatory and oversight role. The Department could not simply blame the mining houses, but must itself to make sure that the working environment was not conducive to accidents. This had been commented upon during budget hearings and Mr Gazi had now reinforced that responsibility.

Mr E Lucas (IFP) said that mining had been practised in South Africa for many years, where some of the deepest mines in the world were found. However, South Africa still had not come to grips with the health and safety issues, with progress only being made very recently. He commented that there was still competition for skilled staff between the mining houses and the DMR, instead of these bodies working together to resolve these issues. The manufacturers of equipment used in mining also had to make sure that the noise generated by the equipment was within acceptable limits.

Mr M Sonto (ANC) said that he was not sure that the explanation given by Mr Gazi regarding the 110dB noise level addressed the whole problem, and questioned whether the noise levels could be reduced to 85dB if PPE was used.

The Acting Chairperson felt that the MHSC and the Committee were not in agreement on this issue, as the permanent Chairperson of the Committee, Mr F Gona, had insisted that the MHSC must ensure that the emission levels were at no higher than the stipulated 85dB. She asked for further clarity on this.

Mr Msaza said that the 110 Db target was set in 2003, to be achieved by 2008, and that other targets would be set for achieving in 2013. The current limit of 110 dB would be reconsidered during the September 2011 summit. The Mine Health and Safety Act was clear, in that it set the Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL) at 85dB. The mining houses and employers had to set a hierarchy of controls to reduce the noise levels emitted to those prescribed by law for exposure.

Mr Lucas noted that the Strategic Plan projected some interest rates and asked how the interest rates were predicted for the next four years.

Mr Sonto noted that summits were held in the interest of improving mine health and safety, and asked what the impact of those summits had been, and who the stakeholders were. He also asked for the theme of the September 2011 summit.

Mr Gazi said that the measures to change the health and safety culture in the mining industry in South Africa had only just been implemented in 2011, so it was too soon to assess the signs of improvement. However, he believed that the measures would go to the heart of issues. Human behaviour was driven by beliefs and values, and the issue of bonuses was a large consideration. Companies would say that they wanted health and safety, but their bonus and incentive structures showed the opposite.

Mr Sonto said that the presentation talked about improving health and safety culture, and this should cut across labour, business and government. If improvements had been implemented already, he was eagerly awaiting the signs of success.

Mr Msaza reiterated that the Mining Act stipulated that there had to be a mine house and safety summit every two years. The joint effort by business, labour and the State made progress possible. One of the main purposes of the summits was to review progress made on agreements reached at previous summits. Summits did produce agreements and action plans that had to be implemented. The graphs showed the downward trend of the injury and death statistics.

Mr Sonto asked what mines the MHSC partnered when doing research, and what kind of relationship was established with those mines, as well as with others with whom it had not partnered.

Mr Gazi replied that in the past, issues had been researched and good outcomes stated, but that research was never used. The so called “Champion Mines” were mines that proved the concepts that the research developed. HMSC worked with mines who volunteered to test the outcomes, in order to confirm that they were correct. This was one way to test systems and equipment, at their developmental stages, in the mining environment. MHSC itself did not target any specific mines. Some years ago, MHSC ha developed a silent drill, but testing in the real environment proved that it was impractical because it was too heavy for regular use.

The Acting Chairperson asked whether the MHSC researched the health impacts of acid mine drainage on the people of the Aurora Grootvlei Mine, and to what extent this area was accommodated in the strategy.

Mr Sonto asked how far South Africa had gone in containing acid mine drainage, and also asked what impact it had on the communities in the vicinity of the mines.

Mr Gazi said that HMSC started researching the impact of acid mine drainage in April 2011. It needed to look at the body of existing work, and do laboratory tests in order to quantify the issues and assess the impact. After that, it would indicate what areas required intervention and what policies needed to be developed and work done.

Mr Sonto asked about the impact of dust on communities adjacent to mines, whether research had been done, the outcomes and what was being done to address the problem.

Mr Gazi said that dust was one of the two focus areas of research. This research work also started in April 2011, and it was too early as yet to give results. MHSC would report to the Committee once the work had been finalised.

Mr Gololo asked what “embedding processes” meant.

Mr Gazi said that this referred to the need to entrench processes, so that they became a way of life. Processes were guided by policy, and embedding these would help workers to implement the policy, and ensure that business was done in certain standardised ways. People came from very diverse backgrounds, but shared values, which were then entrenched, would bring them together.

Mr C Gololo (ANC) asked for an explanation of the symbols used on page 26 of the presentation.

Mr Gazi said that the blue markings represented improvements, but indicated that MHSC had not yet achieved all that it could, and yellow markings indicated that the statistics were discomforting.

Mr Gololo asked what the MHSC learnt from the Chilean experience on the question of safety.

Mr Gazi said that the experiences in Chile had helped the MHSC to develop advice, particularly in regard to the regulatory aspects, since questions had been asked as to whether similar situations could arise in South Africa. The level of mining emphasised the need to have secondary outlets.

The Acting Chairperson questioned the acceptable rate for respirital silicosis, noting that the target was 0,1 mg/m3.

Mr Msaza replied that the OEL of 0,1mg/m3 was also prescribed by the Act.

Mr C Gololo asked, but then withdrew, a question on collections.

The Acting Chairperson asked for an explanation of the figures of R50 million and R16 million, and asked whether there was any sanction imposed for non-payment of levies, whether this was legislated for, and whether the Committee’s assistance was needed.

Mr Gazi said that MHSC claimed levies of R50 million per year. However, MHSC always under-collected, and the R16 million represented bad debt, accumulated over the years. Over the last six months the new Chief Financial Officer had instituted programmes to collect that debt. MHSC was comfortable with its internal mechanisms of collecting debt.

Mr Sonto asked for clarity on the point that incentives or bonuses could be given to workers for overtime work, yet it was precisely when workers were tired or overworked that accidents would occur.

Mr Gazi responded that the Culture Transformation Framework Report had linked payment of overtime bonuses to injuries and death. It had grappled with the question of how mines could structure incentives in such a way that they did not encourage risky behaviour.

The Acting Chairperson said that no university was specialising in mining studies, and was interested to hear of the Centre of Excellence, which could attract scholars and graduates to mining as a career.

Mr Gazi said that traditionally Wits and Pretoria Universities had mining schools for the study of mining, and more recently the University of Johannesburg also offered related courses. MHSC worked very closely with the Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA) to try to attract students. MQA offered 700 bursaries for graduates, and graduate development programmes for learners to ensure that, on their graduation, they would be exposed to the mining environment. These mechanisms worked well, both in attracting students and funding. Universities, like the MHSC Inspectorate, struggled with capacity. The Centre of Excellence was envisaged as some sort of an academy, which would train different levels of staff, such as general management and production supervisors. It was envisaged that everybody would come through this institution, and through the mining sites. The technology was changing and students would be kept up to date with the latest developments, by the Centre of Excellence filling the gap of continuous learning and skills development. It was also envisaged that the Centre of Excellence would partner with other public institutions, like the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), who in turn had relationships with the Departments of Defence and of Science and Technology. The MHSC needed access to labs, but because this would take huge capital investment, it preferred to build relationships with institutions that already had these facilities.

Mr Sonto noted that MHSC outsourced research work, because some required scarce skills that were not available in the Council, yet it appeared that it was able to put together teams to analyse and interpret research.

Mr Gazi said that the Minister had also asked why the MHSC did not develop in-house research capacity, and responded that the Centre of Excellence would be addressing this issue. Most research institutions were private, and were not keen to undertake the type of research that the MHSC needed. MHSC had been operating with one research manager and two project managers to supervise projects of research, although the Council’s Australian equivalent had 80 researchers.

Mr Lucas asked how new entrants into mining industry cooperated with the MHSC.

Mr Msaza replied that the South African Mining Development Association (SAMDA) and
The Aggregate and Sand Producers Association of Southern Africa (ASPASA) represented the smaller mines. MHSC had agreements, and cooperated with them, as it recognised their important roles. Sometimes the smaller mines had compliance challenges, and the Presidential Audit in 2008 found that they did not have all the systems in place. MHSC did substantial research on the risks in smaller operators, who required to meet the same standards as the bigger mines, and who should therefore highlight their particular challenges to the MHSC.

Mr Lucas said that in other countries, including Canada and Australia, had high levels of mechanisation, but in South Africa there was a need to create jobs instead of mechanisation. He asked how MHSC reconciled the need for development and technological advances with the need to create jobs.

Mr Msaza said that the MHSC and Board had not studied the employment structure in detail, although it did need to do so to get the ability to respond to and manage risks. A national body would be able to achieve what individual entities could not; for instance, in Australia a national body was able to put out underground fires by transporting its jet engine to any mine that was on fire.

The Acting Chairperson summarised the main points raised by Members and noted that a report would be compiled, and the Committee would be approving the strategic plan at a later meeting. However, she noted that the Summit in September 2011 would be considering the OEL and decibel ratings, and she reiterated the Committee’s view that machinery should only transmit 85dB. The Committee felt that the Centre of Excellence was a priority, as it could look at best practice models and technologies used in other countries, including, for instance, using buses underground.

Mr Msaza said South Africa already ran buses in the shallow mines, such as coal mines, to transport workers to the coalface. South Africa also had driverless trucks, controlled by remote computers. South Africa had challenges, but it had also made contributions to mining technology used in other countries. The cartridge system, developed in South Africa, was being used in Chile. He conceded that South Africa did not celebrate its successes enough, and its mining success stories needed to be publicised.

The Acting Chairperson said that the MHSC had to scrutinise the Mine Health and Safety Act, identify whether any part of it might hamper the implementation of the Council’s strategic plan, and report back to the Committee on anything that needed amendment.

The Acting Chairperson noted that the MQA seemed to be doing a lot of work, including financing studies, and its strategy should be aligned with that of MHSC, so that training could be synchronised and training funds spent more efficiently.

The Acting Chairperson requested that MHSC should report back to the Committee when it had assessed the acid mine drainage and quantified the work and dangers posed. Once that was done, other dangerous areas, like rock falls, must be researched. There had been little improvement in prevention of these.

The meeting was adjourned.


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