Department of Mineral Resources and Energy
Employers in the mining industry have been ordered to prepare and implement a code of practice in terms of section 9(2) of the Mine Health and Safety Act.
The mineral resources and energy department confirmed this in a statement welcoming the legal certainty provided by the Labour Court order granted on 1 May 2020.
Section 9(2) stipulates that “an employer must prepare and implement a code of practice on any matter affecting the health or safety of employees and other persons who may be directly affected by activities at the mine if the Chief Inspector of Mines requires it”.
In the statement, the department declared that the code of practice needs to be prepared and implemented in accordance with guidelines to be published by the Chief Inspector of Mines in the Government Gazette by 18 May 2020.
According to the department, the “order resolves the existing uncertainty as to whether the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy and Chief Inspector of Mines are empowered under the Mine Health and Safety Act to introduce enforceable measures to deal with the outbreak of Covid-19 at mines”.
The court order also requires mines to implement a standard operating procedure agreed to between parties as an interim measure, and which must also be in line with the Regulations, the minister’s Direction and Directives issued by the Chief Inspector on 26 March 2020.
The department indicated that the court order will be published in the Gazette in due course.
In response, parliament has welcomed the court judgement on Covid-19 Health and Safety Guidelines.
In a statement, the Chairpersons of the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources and Energy, and the Select Committee on Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy, Mr Sahlulele Luzipo and Ms Tebogo Modise, declared that the “judgement only serves to create certainty on the procedure and explicit process that needs to be followed in developing minimum operating standards from the employer and regulator’s point of view”.
“The Chairpersons feel vindicated for calling on the organised labour, in their message to workers on Workers’ Day, to guard against circumstances where mine workers would be made to work under conditions that expose them to the risk of contracting coronavirus.”
The Chairpersons also called on the department to, as soon as possible, kick-start a broad consultative process with social partners to develop the guidelines as directed by the judgement.