Botswana’s mining accidents have significantly decreased over the last decade as the mining houses take a tough measures to meet north star geared toward reducing accidents, Home Affairs Minister, Edwin Batshu said.
Speaking at the Botswana Ash (BOTASH) five million fatality free shifts celebrations in Sowa Township, the minister showered praises on the mining industry over its high safet, health and environment ( She), record.
He in the 15 year period of 1998 to 2013, the number of serious injuries in the Botswana mining industry reported to the Department of mines reduced from 73 to 16.
“The number of fatal accidents has also decreased from 10 to 2 over the same period. This reduction in injuries is even more impressive as employment in the industry increased by 25 percent over that period,” said Batsu.
The mining industry around the world, with its large and complex, stationary as well as mobile equipment, presents a high risk, not only to the safety and health of employees, but even the general public and the safety of the expensive equipment used in production.
“This decrease in injury incidents is indeed commendable but we must never be complacent. Your attitude of zero tolerance with respect to unsafe acts and omissions must continue as this is the only way to maintain your incident free work environment,” urged Batshu.
The minister also said that special protocols to address fatality risks are the best way to reduce incidence of fatalities in the workplace. He said that the first step is to identify all the risks of fatal injury and systematically design protocols to reduce them. He said that the first achievement on that regard would be the eliminated risk.
“Where risks cannot be eliminated, the next step is to substitute the material or process to reduce the risk. If this too cannot be done, a complete redesign of the process to reduce risk must follow,” he said.
The minister added that provision of personal protective equipment is the last control measure to be instituted to prevent injury. He further said that it is very important that mines are committed to safety and health as much as their dedication to making profits.
The minister explained that since government has since 1970 shown commitment to the promotion of occupational safety and health through the enactment of various statutes such as the Factories Act, the Mines, Quarries, Works and Machinery Act, the Atmospheric Pollution Act, the Agrochemicals Act and the Radiation Protection Act.
“All these laws bear testimony to the position of government with regard to safety and health standards in the mining industry,” said Batshu.
He added that his ministry was assigned responsibility for safety and health through Government Notice Number 356 of 6th September 2002.
The minister further explained that his ministry has also prepared a draft national policy on occupational health and safety which is due to be circulated to government ministries.
“As government we will continue to work closely with the private sector in improving and putting in place the right instruments that will support businesses in the country in promoting safety and health in the workplace,” he said.
Speaking at the same event, Botswana Chamber of Mines (BCM) chief executive officer Charles Siwawa said that it is pleasing to see that there are significant exploration activities taking place in the country which will soon be turned into operational mines.
“This is a welcome development for the country as in the majority of cases these exploration activities will eventually be turned into operational mines. This will also create employment for Batswana and will also boost our economy,” he said.
He however said that mines come with challenges on the safety, health and environmental sectors.
Siwawa said that in the drafting of its constitution, BCM took a strategic position to allow exploration companies eligibility for membership such that safety, health and environmental issues are dealt with earlier during the mining process.
“These will inculcate responsibility towards the safety, health and environment at an early stage during development minerals,” he said,
BCM chief said mining activities have intrinsic occupational risks which must be managed to protect employees and machinery. He further commended the unions for their positive contribution towards safety, health and environment issues.
In conclusion he commended BOTASH for its adherence to high safety and environmental health standards.