Mine Health and Safety Inspectorate & Mine Health and Safety Council 2006/7 Annual Reports: briefings

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Mineral Resources and Energy

17 October 2007
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

17 October 2007

Mr E Mthethwa (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Mine Health and Safety Inspectorate presentation
Mine Health and Safety Council presentation
Department of Minerals and Energy presentation

Audio recording of meeting

The Chief Inspector of Mines briefed the Committee on the activities and performance of the Mine Health and Safety Inspectorate of the Department of Minerals and Energy during the 2006/07 financial year. 199 fatalities were reported - 28% as a result of fall of ground (i.e. rock bursts and seismic events), 28% resulting from transport systems and machinery and the remaining 44% resulting from a variety of other accidents. A total of 4159 injuries were reported for the gold, platinum, coal and diamond sectors. Compared to the previous year, the number of fatalities was unchanged but the number of injuries increased by 2%. The target of a 20% decrease in fatalities and injuries was therefore not met. There was a decrease in the number of employees certified with pulmonary tuberculoses (2204 cases), obstructive airways disease (52 cases) and noise-induced hearing loss (1681 cases) but an increase in the number of cases of silico-tuberculosis (363 cases) and silicosis (452 cases) was reported. The results of a survey of HIV/AIDS programmes in the mining sector were presented. Details of improvement strategies, the training and development plan, the percentage achievement of the service delivery indicators and the key focus areas for the following year were provided.

The Acting General Manager of the Mine Health and Safety Council briefed the Committee on the key strategic objectives and achievements of the MHSC and submitted a summary of the financial report for 2006/07. The Council received a qualified audit report from the Auditor-General, based on weaknesses in the accounting systems, the management of assets and items of expenditure regarded as fruitless and wasteful. Following the departure of the former CEO, the Council appointed an external consultant to assist them with addressing the operational and governance issues that were raised.

Members of the Committee were concerned about the Auditor-General’s comments and asked questions pertaining to the annual financial statements. Members asked for the exact number of employees who died or were injured in every category of incident. Members were concerned about the welfare of the families of workers who had died and of workers who were injured or suffered from occupational diseases. Members requested that achievements were measured against the objectives and suggested that future reports followed the balanced scorecard format.

Briefing by the Mine Health and Safety Inspectorate (MHSI)

Mr T Gazi (Chief Inspector of Mines, Department of Minerals and Energy) briefed the Committee on the activities and performance of the MHSI during 2006/07 (see attached document). He gave an overview of the effects of unsafe working conditions and the responsibility of both employers and employees to ensure a safe working environment. The minerals sector contributed 7% directly and 15% indirectly to the gross domestic product (GDP) and employed 460000 people. Operations varied from high-risk underground to medium-risk mechanised and low-risk surface mines.

A comparison of the fatalities and injuries per commodity for 2005 and 2006 reflected an overall increase in injuries of 2% while the number of fatalities remained unchanged. Fall of ground remained the major cause of incidents and the number of fatalities caused by machinery doubled. The overall target of a 20% improvement that was set in 2003 was not achieved and it was necessary to improve at a rate of 33% per annum to reach the targets set for 2013.

Noise and airborne pollutants (e.g. dust) were the major contributors to occupational health. A system of risk assessment, medical surveillance and annual reports to the Inspectorate was in place. Statistics of the types of diseases and level of exposure per sector were provided. From 2005 to 2006, the number of cases of pulmonary tuberculoses, obstructive airways disease and noise-induced hearing loss decreased but the number of cases of silico-tuberculosis and silicoses increased. Mr Gazi pointed out that the cases reported resulted from exposure five to ten years ago. Health and wellness programmes focused on HIV/AIDS and the results of a survey of the HIV programmes were presented.

Improvement strategies included knowledge management, enforcement activities, reviewing policies and collaborating with the Department of Health (DOH). A summary of the training and development plan to improve capacity was submitted. The percentages of achievement of the performance indicators were provided. Key focus areas included recruitment and retention of personnel, training and development, knowledge management, the quality of audits and inspections and enforcement.

Briefing by the Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC)
Mr Mthokozisi Zondi (Acting General Manager, Mine Health and Safety Council) briefed the Committee on the performance and activities of the MHSC during 2006/07 (see attached document). He presented an overview of the profile and structure of the Council and its health and safety research programmes. Falls of ground (rock bursts and seismic activity) accounted for 28%, transport systems and machinery a further 28% and general accidents contributed 44% to the number of fatalities. Further details of the “general” classification were included on page 93 of the annual report. The Council focused on prevention of occupational diseases such as silicosis, noise-induced hearing loss and tuberculosis as well as HIV/AIDS.

Key strategic objectives included the achievement of the health and safety targets set at the 2003 summit, a review of the applicable legislation, advising the Minister of Minerals and Energy on health and safety issues, the development of a preventative culture and ensuring the effective operation of the MHSC. Details of the policies, interventions and achievements under each objective were provided. A list of mines that earned safety awards for incident-free shifts was included.

The Auditor-General submitted a qualified audit report for the previous financial year. The qualified opinion was based on the inadequacy of the accounting system, the management, review and reporting of property, plant and equipment assets and items of expenditure considered to be fruitless and wasteful although no incidents of fraud were reported. Improvement measures undertaken included the appointment of a consulting firm to review the Council’s operations, updating the accounting systems and software and maintaining the asset register.

A summary of the Council’s financial report for 2006/07 was submitted. The amount of levies received increased by 15% to R43.1 million, State funding increased by 5% to R4.4 million and the levy contribution to administration increased by 12% to R5.7 million. The amount of fines paid to the Council remained unchanged at R0.6 million. Research expenditure increased by 18% to R34.6 million, administration expenditure decreased by 12% to R12.8 million and the administrative fine fund expenditure was halved. The Council posted a surplus of R4.4 million.

Ms F Mathibela (ANC) asked whether the families of workers that were infected with HIV were informed. She asked whether follow-up examinations were done for workers diagnosed with tuberculosis and silicoses once they were no longer employed by the mines.

Mr T Mahlaba (ANC) asked how the MHSC measured the achievements to determine the extent of the implementation of the strategies. There appeared to be a discrepancy between the percentages of the different causes of fatalities that were quoted in the presentation and in the MHSC’s annual report.

Mr J Combrinck (ANC) expressed concern over the Auditor-General’s report on the MHSC. He asked how many senior managers had left the Council and their reasons for leaving. He asked how much was paid to senior managers and accounting officers in performance bonuses and whether these bonuses were in line with the service delivery performance. He asked how many disciplinary hearings were outstanding and what measures were taken to finalise these cases. He requested more information about the R600000 wasteful expenditure that was reported by the A-G. He noted that an amount of R25000 was lost because of the late payment of rentals. He asked why the company that audited the accounts was paid less than in the previous year and why there was a decrease in the amount of royalties received.

Mr M Matlala (ANC) asked what was being done for the welfare of the families of mine workers who lost their lives or became disabled while on duty.

Adv H Schmidt (DA) requested that the actual number of people who died or were injured as a result of the different types of incidents was reported and not merely the percentages of each category. He said that the R4.4 million surplus posted by the Council was too high in relation to the total budget and that an entity like the MHSC should not declare any surplus at all.

The Chairperson suggested that reports and presentations followed the balanced scorecard format in future. This allowed for organisations to determine the extent by which the money that was spent provided value. The workers were the key customers and it was important to include their perception of the entities’ performance. Ways needed to be found to interact with all the stakeholders in this regard. It was important to measure the actual achievements against the desired outputs instead of merely listing the activities.

Mr Gazi agreed to submit future reports in the required format and said that the statistics requested were available. He said that health and safety were sensitive issues and the Inspectorate suffered from limited resources to attend to all aspects of the mining sector. The MHSI acted on all incidents that were reported by employees and had the full support of the MHSC, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Chamber of Mines. Representatives of NUM and the Chamber of Mines attended this briefing.

In response to Adv Schmidt’s question, Mr Gazi explained that the surplus resulted from interest accrued on under-utilised research funds. The surplus was not forfeited to the Treasury and was carried over to the following year.

With regard to future reports, Mr Gazi said that the actual outcomes of activities were reconsidered from the beginning of 2007 and undertook to work closely with the Committee to ensure that future reports met requirements.

In response to Ms Mathibela’s questions, Dr Nomsa Maku (Chief Director, Policy Unit – DME) explained that in terms of the Occupational Diseases Act, follow-up examinations of persons suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis had to be done at least every two years. This was currently done under the auspices of the Medical Bureau of Professional Diseases.

Dr Audrey Banyini (Program Manager, Occupational Health – MHSC) advised that doctors were not allowed to disclose the HIV status of a person to anyone else and this restriction remained an ethical issue. The Council introduced programmes to empower workers in an attempt to address this particular challenge.

Mr Gazi added that a system of voluntary counseling and testing was in place. If more employees submitted to testing and counseling it would allow the organisations to gain a better understanding of the situation and to make informed policy decisions.

Mr Zondi explained that falls of ground, rock bursts and seismic activity together accounted for 28% of fatalities (i.e. 55 deaths). Transport systems and machinery accounted for a further 28% of fatalities (56 deaths) and general accidents accounted for 44% of fatalities (88 deaths).

In response to Mr Combrinck’s questions, Mr Zondi explained that the MHSC took a holistic approach to solve the problems highlighted in the annual report and appointed a consultancy in September 2007 to advise on the structure of the Council and the actions that needed to be taken to improve operations. He undertook to provide the Committee with details of bonuses paid. The audit comment on fruitless and wasteful expenditure referred to an incident where a research agent was paid before any results were delivered. However, the Council was taking steps to recover the balance of the funds. Mr Gazi added that the CSIR had to commit funds in order to use facilities in Utah, United States of America, but was unable to complete the research project because the facility was closed after an accident.

In response to the comment about the impact on employees, Mr Zondi said that a mini Indaba was held in September 2007. Outcomes included the need to establish a research agency to focus on rock bursts and seismic activity, the need to review whether there was sufficient and effective legislation on health and safety in place and the need to develop capacity to manage the risks in the mining sector. Objectives were set to address all these issues in 2007/08.

Mr Gazi said that the concerns around the financial matters of the Council led to a complaint against the former CEO. Subsequently, a forensic audit took place, a disciplinary hearing was held and the CEO left the MSHC. The matter was finalised during the current year and was therefore not included in the 2006/07 reports.

The meeting was adjourned.



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