Zimbabwe tortures miners, parades OHS service

Zimbabwean employers reported 75 deaths and 4111 serious injuries at work in 2011, but deaths and torture at a state military diamond mine are not reported.

Zimbabwean occupational health and safety statistics for 2010 was 90 deaths and 4410 serious workplace injuries, reports the Zimbabwean government in its state newspaper, Zimbabwe Herald.

However, deaths, injuries, diseases, torture and rape at informal artisanal diamond fields at Marange are reported only in sneak footage and anonymous interviews by foreign media.

The nearly constant number of serious reported workplace injuries indicates a systemic factor, comments SHEQafrica.com editor SHEQafrica. The popular science author Lyall Watson found, when examining state statistics worldwide for his book Romeo Error, that reported murders in Wales, or reported dog bites in New York, remained a constant figure year after year, due to a combination of factors, including bureaucracy.

British Broadcasting Company (BBC) revealed that “horror and bloodshed” continue in a diamond mine workers camp in Zimbabwe in 2012, run by Zimbabwean security forces at Marange.

Zimbabwe and its state organs are silent on the slave labour camp, but choose to showcase its OHS services to the formal business sector in ‘opinion’ columns in a government owned nespaper.

The BBC interviewed recent victims who told of severe beatings and sexual assault. The European Union plans to allow some banned ‘blood diamonds’ from Zimbabwe into world markets, following a flawed Kimberley Process ban since 2009.

Informal miners are captive in extremely hazardous conditions and beaten, some for three years, at ‘Diamond Base’, constructed of defence tents and razor wire.

This unofficial state mining operation, producing mainly dark industrial diamonds, is about 2km from Mbada mine, where the EU could partially lift the diamond trade ban based on OHS inspections and political assurances that diamond trade would not fund political oppression.

Zimbabwean OHS inspections

Zimbabwe’s National Social Security Authority (ZNSSA) Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) division has four departments; factory and works inspectorate, occupational health services, occupational safety and health promotion and training, as well as OHS research and development.

ZNSSA inspects workplaces to enforce compliance with health and safety legislation, and makes awards to the most safe employers in each region, reports Zimbabwe’s Herald.

Inspectors are active at workplace facilities, installations, equipment and machinery. Plants may not operate without written approval from the factory inspectorate. They also approve construction and installation of pressure vessels and conduct annual inspections on high hazard installations.

Deaths have occurred due to explosion of improvised boilers at some new farming operations, reports Zimbabwe in the Herald.

Zimbabwe’s Competent Persons certified

Inspectors check lifts and escalators, and certify competency of responsible persons for machinery and equipment safety.

Zimbabawe OH monitoring

ZNSSA occupational health services maintain and monitor occupational health service programmes according to international standards and local law. This body also keeps a database on OH services and OH management methods.

They conduct medical surveillance of occupational diseases, assess exposure conditions, and processes medical certificates of fitness (red cards for dusty work) at a Medical Bureau.

State OH Services also monitor and register industrial clinics. It is responsible for detecting occupational diseases before they progress to become potentially fatal.

Zimbabawe maintains OHS awareness

ZNSSA occupational safety and health promotion and training department raise OHS awareness, helps to establish safety and health committees, and invokes legislation and prosecution as a last resort.

“These committees share responsibility for occupational safety and health between employers and employees… NSSA prefers to educate employers and workers”, says the Zimbabwe state report. “The department’s objective is to help employers to identify, develop and implement effective occupational health and safety management systems to prevent disabling injuries and loss incidents.”

They use awareness campaigns, HS risk surveys or risk assessments, and training relevant to each industry.

Courses on occupational safety, health and environmental management are conducted at workplaces. The department assists companies in initiation OHS policies and occupational safety health environment and quality (sheq) management systems.

Zimbabwe OHS research

ZNSSA research and development department keeps occupational safety and health practices relevant by changes or adjustments in technology, management systems, or loss prevention measures.

Their research maintains a scientific database of information on occupational hazards at local workplaces, establish occupational safety and health standards, and exposure limits for known workplace stressors.

R&D key activities in health and safety include identifying, evaluating and determining appropriate control measures for high frequency and high risk workplace hazards.

The department also compiles and interprets statistics to inform the state and employers in planning their occupational health and safety activities. -source; Zimbabwe Herald

Zimbabwe strong on education, weak on ethics

Most researchers and states agree that loss prevention requires several measures applied in concert, including practicable legislation, consistent enforcement, ethical investors and owners, committed leadership, trained management, labour awareness, organised business commitment to self regulation, and a general health and safety preservation ethic, comments Furter.

Zimbabwe has some of these OHS culture elements in place, while others are lacking. The country has very strong education and research services, while its political and business leadership are unstable, impacting negatively on social, public health and environmental conditions.

PHOTO; Artisinal diamond mining involves undercutting into gravel at the bottom of unstable holes by ‘snake boys’, and hand panning. Slave labour and torture is hidden behind barbed wire fences and Zimbabwean military controllers.

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