Female miners need protective panties – study

2012-11-24 18:23

Female mine workers are a step closer to having their underwear declared “personal protective equipment”.

If this happens, mining houses will be obliged to supply female employees with underwear, as they do with any protective clothing or equipment.

It’s been a long-standing demand of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the issue will now be discussed by the Mine Health and Safety Council, the statutory body that advises Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu on occupational health and safety.

A final report on the study of personal protective equipment for women in mines has been released and will be discussed at a council workshop on a date still to be determined, says the Chamber of Mines.

The NUM in 2009 demanded in wage agreements that underwear for women working underground be treated as personal protective equipment.

However, the council decided to expand the scope of its investigation to include whether there was evidence underwear would protect female mine workers or act as “a shield” from infections and rashes caused by mine work.

This included normal underwear bought “off the shelf”, any underwear made of special material, including sports clothing, or specially designed underwear.

The council has released its final report based on the research done by Professor Lindiwe Zungu of Unisa health studies.

Zungu was not available for interviews this week, but her study found that poorly fitting underwear causes discomfort to female mine workers.

According to Zungu’s study, the majority of female mine workers are younger than 40.

“There are hazards that may have a negative effect on their ability to conceive, giving birth to unhealthy babies, or in a worst-case scenario, they may experience miscarriages,” Zungu found.

Women are forced to wear equipment or clothing designed for men, which defeats efforts to promote gender equality in the industry, Zungu reported.

NUM women’s structure national secretary Faith Letlala did not respond to City Press enquiries.

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