The mine health and safety act - success or failure?: a critical assessment of the aetiology and impact of the act of 1996 with reference to context, tripartism and risk management

Hermanus, Mavis Ann
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Introduction: The overall aim of this research was to investigate how the MHSA came about and to assess whether it succeeded or failed in its objectives to improve mine health and safety in South African mines. The main hypothesis is that the MHSA’s impact has been mixed. The effect of the MHSA was assessed in terms of: The nature of health and safety problem encountered in the South African mining sector • The context in which the MHSA was introduced, and which changed over time (does the MHSA ‘fit the context?), and • The readiness of the stakeholders for tripartism and risk management (could the tripartite stakeholders engage effectively and put a risk management approach into place for health and safety?). It was envisaged that the outcomes of this research would have relevance for not only South Africa but also for other developing countries which have, or which are contemplating, similar legislation. Methods: In overview, this research which includes supporting papers employs a grounded theory approach and mixed methods, drawing on both quantitative and qualitative evidence and data. Quantitative data on occupational health and safety impacts and exposures were sourced from the Department of Mineral Resources, the Minerals Council of South Africa, the Mine Health and Safety Council and StatsSA, while qualitative data were drawn from observations, interviews, reports and peer reviewed literature. The combination of data sources provided the basis for theorising that an examination of the social and mining context, an understanding of the pros and cons of the regulatory approach to be employed, and readiness for practicing tripartism and risk management would be necessary to assess how successfully the MHSA could be adopted. Outcomes and Findings: The data allowed for conclusions to be drawn about the state of, and trends in, health and safety in South African mining before and after the advent of the MHSA. The history of South African mining, mining conditions, laws and social mores, provided evidence of systematic and deeply entrenched divisions that continue to hamper dialogue on the prospects for further improving health and safety, as well as on the future of the sector. The body of mining health and safety law was found to have increased after the adoption of the MHSA, while the availability of specific information on the standards to be met has decreased. The composition of the sector was found to have changed as large mining companies divested from the country, and the number of smaller mines increased alongside of informal and illegal mining. While the health and safety outcomes of the sector have improved, the primary factor has been the decline in gold mining activities, albeit that health and safety practice in the formal sector, including gold mining, has advanced. The features of South Africa’s political and economic environment, and that of its mining sector are not uncommon in developing countries, and thus the research findings have relevance for them.
A dissertation supported by published work submitted to the School of Mining Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, University of the Witwatersrand, in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy