MINING ACCIDENT; 1999 MPUMALANGA.
This accident took place on a coal mine in MPUMALANGA IN 1999: 26TH APRIL.
That morning I went to work as usual and immediately went underground as I was told that moving equipment was under way and I was needed to supply electricity to a new mining area. On reaching a waiting place for that area there were no workers present. Later a shift boss turned up and told me the foreman would be in soon. I had already stood around for almost 3 hours before the foreman arrived. We got into the fermel (An underground tractor to convey people and equipment.) We were on our way when the fermel came to a standstill. I alighted and tested some electrical cables in the vicinity, had them rolled up and placed in the fermal’s cabin. I developed a severe headache but the work must go on. I asked the shift boss to test the ventilation velocity with his Draeger tester and was told the ventilation was according to standards. Smoke from the diesel engine was drifting slowly against the roof. I knew that something was amiss with the ventilation. Eventually we reached our destination and the foreman and shift boss left the area with the driver of the fermel and other workers. I was to collect electrical boxes made of steel and very heavy. I left them where they were and started to drag heavy HT cable lengths to the place where I was supposed to work. I felt terrible and nauseous and found it difficult to stay upright. I sat down against a wall and became unconscious due to noxious gases. The diesel fumes from the fermel and another diesel tractor was still idling (legal limit of idling underground 20minutes.) About 2 hours later I was shaken and had water thrown into my face and never really came too, other than a groggy state. I was left there while the Shift boss done his survey. Later I was loaded into the fermel and taken to the hospital where I became unconscious again.
A general foreman tried to resuscitate me but I never regained consciousness. When I did come around the foreman asked me where the accident report was. I told him as clearly as I could that no accident report was made that I am/was aware of. The man was frantic with worry because the poo will hit the fan should the manager demand an accident report. The accident report is a legal document and had to be available to the manager immediately. It had been removed to cover any other statements which could indicate the ventilation condition underground. I was sent home with 3 tablets for the headache. Some weeks later I and my wife were driving to town. We were going downhill when I heard her screaming to me to stop the car I slammed on the brakes and spun over the congested robots and came to a stop on the other side of the intersection. I visited a neurologist in Pretoria and after several tests and observations he came to the conclusion that I had suffered brain damage from the mine gassing. I was sent to other doctors and neurologists but the conclusions were always the same. Brain damage. I was off on sick leave for almost 4 months. The mine has its own method of treating mine accidents: Retrench the worker and the costs will be less. I received a paltry retrenchment package of R35 000 for almost 6 years in service., Brain damage in this case refers to damage to the memory system.
This story is true as are the events described above. As an example of the mines’ policy about 9 workers were retrenched due to some or other injury inflicted on the mine during working hours.
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