Health and safety in Zambia’s mining industry

By , Nita Karume :

Any individual who has had experience in the mining industry is well aware of the phrase ‘If it is not safe, do not do it’. This is attributed to the delicate nature of the industry especially when it comes to issues such as occupational health and safety.

In Zambia for instance, all mine owners, operators and contractors are subjected to firm orientation on mine safety and its importance. Furthermore, employers and operators in the Zambian mining fraternity embrace first aid as a hallmark to save lives before paramedics arrive at scenes of accidents. The Zambia Chamber of Mines chief executive officer Sokwani Chilembo acknowledged this by adding that safety is a collective responsibility.

One thing or another could go wrong at a mining site at any given moment. As such, Mr. Chilembo insists on the importance of a mining company to have a fully functional safety strategy that should be riven by the company leadership. He also noted that Zambia has a fairly cleaner fatality record compared to other countries’ mining industries.

According to the ZCM, statistics show that there has never been a fatality-free year in the global mining industry. Nonetheless, indications reveal that fatalities are going to decrease in the long term, and in turn mining will become safer.

Mr. Chilembo pointed out the increased use of technology, advances in mine safety as well as the inculcation of a safety culture as some of the main drivers of the downward trend in global mine fatalities and injuries. These, he mentioned, have since reduced employee exposure to hazardous and life – threatening situations.

The Chamber of Mines Council for First Aid (CMZCFA) chairperson, Frederick Kaoma observed that over the years his team has set to redefine and rededicate in suiting the mutating environment to emergency medical response. This is in addition to ensuring they train first aid students in emerging trends in advanced science world over.

According to Mr. Kaoma, the chamber has also implemented routines for first aid trainers to receive teaching methodology skills in enhancing theoretical and practical skills to be applied during emergencies. He further challenged mining houses to train their first aiders with a view to upgrade their qualifications to advanced silver and gold certificates.

The Minister of Mines Richard Musukwa has commended the Chamber of Mines over its consistency in managing the intercompany First Aid competition which emphasizes the importance of first aid in the mining industry. He further appealed to the Chamber of Mines to consider engaging small-scale miners as a means to improve safety standards.

This is in reference to the Black Mountain incident where 11 youth lost their lives as a result of  poor mining methods and none adherence to safe mining methods. The Government has since cautioned all mining houses and asked them to strengthen safety standards in all operational areas.

As such, the Chamber of Mines is expected to make an effort to monitor compliance levels in mining houses which seem to default. On the other hand, the First Aid intercompany competition provides an excellent opportunity for companies and employees to sharpen lifesaving skills.


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