The draft Mine Health and Safety Amendment Bill of 2013, together with its 2014 amendments, are currently being considered by the National Economic Development and Labour Council. If it is promulgated, the draft amendments will have far-reaching implications for the obligations that are currently imposed on mine owners under the Mine Health and Safety Act, 29 of 1996.
In terms of the draft amendments, where a mining contractor conducts operations on behalf of a mine owner, the contractor will be obliged to focus not only on the mining operations but also on issues concerning health and safety. This differs dramatically from the current position, where an owner of a mine must ensure compliance with the Mine Health and Safety Act, and remains liable for all health and safety related matters.
This change in responsibility will benefit mine owners, in that they will no longer be held responsible for health and safety compliance.
Further, employers will, if the draft amendments are promulgated in their current form, be compelled to provide all their employees with formal health and safety training. This means that employers will then have an absolute duty to provide formal training, regardless of whether it is reasonably practicable to do so, which is not currently the case.
The motivation behind this amendment is to improve the health and safety of employees, by training every employee on how to deal with all risks associated with the work that they perform and to minimize and control these risks. However, this may be an extremely onerous obligation for employers to bear, from a time and cost perspective.
Although the proposed amendments will, evidently, have far-reaching consequences for mine owners and contractors; and the health and safety of employees, it remains to be seen whether further amendments will be made to the draft Bill of 2013 and the subsequent 2014 amendments.