New coronavirus mining safety guidelines issued for public comment

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy has published mandatory Covid-19 guidelines for the mining sector aimed at containing the spread of the pandemic within the workplace.

The code of practice was developed following a Labour Court order in a case brought by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU). 

The guidelines require companies, among other precautions, to conduct a risk-based assessment of employees as they return to work, with an emphasis on workers with pre-existing conditions which place them at additional risk. The screening and isolation of employees who show signs of the infection is to be observed, as well as the disinfection of work areas, transport facilities and mine accommodation.

AMCU had argued that the regulations previously issued by government following a decision to allow mines to ramp up production did not provide enough protection to workers and were binding, prompting a legal battle to have them reviewed.

The court has stated that until the codes of practice are finalised, all employers must, as a minimum, comply with standard operating procedures, provided these are consistent with state of disaster regulations.

Confirmed Covid-19 case are are to be reported to the Principal Inspector of Mines with 24 hours and compensation must be offered for occupationally acquired infections, in line with the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA).

The public can have until 14 May 2020 to comment on the draft regulations.

Mining companies around the country have returned to production, following government's decision to phase in economic activity. However, it is not clear how many mine workers have tested positive.

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