South Africa. A report on mining industry fatality statistics, detailing the total number of fatalities in each commodity sector of the South African mining industry for over 20 years, shows that the fatality toll in the South African mining industry has dropped considerably from a total of 774 fatalities in 1984, to a total of 177 fatalities in 2008.
The total fatality toll has dropped steadily over the years as technology, education, awareness, legislation, regulation and corporate social responsibility improved. In essence, this is a reduction in fatalities from 0,51 for every million hours worked, to 0,15 fatalities for every million hours worked.
However, from 1998 to 2008, the drop in fatalities improved dramatically, showing a 60% improvement in one decade.
Chamber of Mines Safety and Sustainable Development Adviser Sietse van der Woude attributes this to a number of factors, including the political transformation that took place in the country in 1994, and South Africa’s subsequent inclusion in the global scene again, opening the door for global learning.
From 220 fatalities, in 2007, to 177 fatalities, in 2008, a 22% reduction in fatalities is evident, along with a 28% reduction in the fatality rate. Van der Woude says that this is a significant achievement, and shows the steady drop towards the ultimate goal of zero fatalities.
"This is the best performance in this industry, since about 1904," adds van der Woude. "However, worth noting is that the current conditions in mining are more difficult than in the past. We are mining much deeper than before, and one has to deal with more complex environments."
In comparison to Safety benchmark countries’ fatality rates, such as those of Australia, Canada and the US, South Africa is still about 50% worse off, he says.
"We assume the benchmark countries make improvements of about 10% a year. So, for us to catch up with them, we’ve set ourselves the milestone of improving by at least 20% a year," he says. "That milestone has been agreed upon by government and the unions."