During the last couple of months, a number of developments have taken place in the sphere of health and safety in South Africa as far as working environments are concerned. 

Pieter Colyn and Celeste Coles, directors at ENSafrica in its Mine and Occupational Health and Safety Department, are experts in mine and occupational health and safety and urge employers, managers and supervisors, in both the mining industry and industries outside the mining industry, to take cognisance of such developments and implement measures to ensure that the operations, for which they are responsible, comply with the additional requirements promulgated in terms of such developments.  In the near future, the relevant governmental departments responsible to oversee health and safety in the mining and other industries, will surely start auditing sites and/or premises to ensure compliance to the new requirements.  Pertinent developments in health and safety are touched on below.

Developments in the mining industry

During November 2014, regulations were promulgated regarding refuge bays at underground mines.  The aforementioned regulation governs the requirements for the construction of refuge bays underground and additional measures to be implemented in this regard.

In the Government Gazette dated 19 December 2014, the Chief Inspector of Mines issued 2 (two) guidelines relating to the compilation of mandatory codes of practice.  Employers are now obligated to compile mandatory codes of practice in respect of risk-based fatigue management and the safe use of conveyor belt installations for the transportation of mineral, material or personnel. Both the guidelines delineate mandatory aspects that must be addressed in these codes of practice which must be drawn up by employers in the mining industry.

On 27 February 2015, by Government Gazette, the Minister of Mineral Resources promulgated regulations relating to machinery and equipment.  These regulations constitute an addition to Regulation 8 of the Mine Health and Safety Regulations.  It is specifically noted that the regulations, excluding regulations 8.10.1.2(b) and 8.10.2.1.(b), will only come into operation 3 (three) months from the date of the publication of the government gazette.  Employers will be obligated to comply therewith by 27 May 2015.

The obligations placed on employers in terms of Regulations 8.10.1.2(b) and 8.10.2.1.(b) are onerous.  It is anticipated that, in the event that no action is taken to prevent potential collision, employers will be responsible to provide means to “retard” diesel powered trackless mobile machines to a safe speed where the brakes are automatically applied.  It is expected from employers to ensure measures are in place where trackless mobile machines must “fail to safe without human intervention”.  Such obligations for an employer are immense.

Furthermore, a number of definitions are provided (including what constitutes and/or falls within the definition of ‘trackless mobile machine’) in this amendment, as well as the insertion of Regulation 8.10, which stipulates a number of obligations on an employer in respect of measures to be implemented to prevent collisions between trackless mobile machines and, amongst others, other vehicles and pedestrians.  The impact of such regulations are far-fetching and may have certain unintended repercussions. 

Developments outside the mining industry

One of the most publicised developments last year, was the promulgation of the Construction Regulations, 2014.  A number of noticeable obligations are placed on, amongst others, clients, principal contractors and contractors relating to “construction work” and from August 2015 compliance with the new construction work permit system will be required. 

On 27 February 2015, the Department of Labour facilitated the issuing of guidance notes in Government Gazette No. 38505, regarding the Pressure Equipment Regulations.  In the introduction to the notes, it is explained that the purpose thereof is to assist with the interpretation and implementation of the Pressure Equipment Regulations.