Since the advent of democracy in South Africa, the health and safety efforts of the mining industry and its partners have paid off in dramatic and literally life-saving ways. Between 1993 and 2020, the industry experienced a 90% overall decline in the number of fatalities, and a 93% decline in fatalities that occurred as a result of fall of ground. Injuries decreased by 80% over the same time period.
The mining industry however recorded a disappointing 18% increase in fatalities in 2020 with 60 fatalities, compared to 51 in 2019. This is despite the shut-down and reduced operations during the early stages of lock-down in 2020.
Majority of the industry’s fatalities are as a result of fall of ground, transport and general accidents - 22 of the 60 fatalities (37%) reported in 2020 were caused by fall of ground, nine by transport and 18 from the general type of accidents. Miscellaneous causes of fatalities increased, with 11 reported.
This unacceptable regression has caused the industry great concern, resulting in additional resources being urgently committed to undertake research into understanding the root causes of these accidents and how they can be prevented.
The Khumbul’ekhaya health and safety strategy which continued in 2020 with a focus on the holistic approach to eliminating fatalities as a result of the increased safety incidents, has been challenged. As a result, leadership conversations amongst CEOs are being reconvened, while close engagements with unions and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy continue, as the industry finds new ways towards zero harm. A renewed focus is required, the heart of which is changing the safety culture through the culture transformation framework.
The mining industry recorded a disappointing 18% increase in fatalities in 2020 with 60 fatalities (2019: 51).