George Sehunelo, a member of the Botswana Mining Chambers Safety, Health and Environmental Committee, on Tuesday assured participants during the commemoration of the International Labour Day in Francistown that the mining industry had assumed full responsibility for managing itself safely, with regard to occupational health and safety of employees.
Giving the keynote address, Sehunelo, who is also the Divisional Manager at Tati Nickel Mine, pointed out that despite a number of accidents in the past, the statistics over the last ten years clearly indicated that the accidents had steadily and significantly decreased.
“This did not just happen; it is the result of a conceited effort by all stakeholders in the industry, who include employees, management and the regulatory authorities,” he said.
He further indicated that, according to their database at the Botswana Chamber of Mines in the early 1980’s, a committee consisting of all stakeholders was established to promote safety in the Botswana Mining Industry. Sehunelo also highlighted the fact that, at the regional level, the Mining Association of Southern Africa, of which the Botswana Chamber of Mines is the founding member, had routinely disseminated safety information to its members across the Southern African Development Committee (SADC)
He pointed out that it was only in Botswana that the mining industry took safety seriously.
He informed the participants that the International Council on Mining and Metals interacted with other stakeholders in both the safety and environmental fields and had entered into a dialogue with the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers Unions (ICEM).
Touching on how the Mining Industry managed the safety in the workplace, he highlighted that, being the mining industry, there was always a risk assessment, and the working method, which was always adjusted to the degree of the risk identified.
“Attention is paid in identifying hazards before they pose risks which can result in accidents and this is always done through a risk assessment in which the working method is adjusted in line with information obtained,” he said.
He addressed the challenge of the current global economic downturn, indicating that since people where uncertain with the future of their jobs, it posed a threat because they became absent minded not always identifying hazards in the workplace.
He gave the example of Debswana taking advantage of the slower pace of activities to provide line managers with training on how to effectively investigate incidents and to learn from them in order to prevent them from leading to accidents later.
“Tati Nickel Mine, on the broader frame, has adopted a more scientific and systematic process called (MORT) Management Oversight and Risk Tree,” he said.
Sehunelo indicated that safety throughout the global mining industry was now a norm because employees were explicitly informed that they have the right to refuse to do work that posed a risk to their health and safety.