On 21 November 2014 the Minister of Mineral Resources published new regulations to the Mine Health and Safety Act 29 of 1996 (MHSA) dealing with refuge bays. The new regulation 16.6 requires that employers ensure that readily accessible refuge bays are provided in the underground workings of a mine. A full copy of the Government Gazettecan be accessed here

In addition, where a mine is required to issue self-contained self-rescuers in terms of MHSA regulation 16.2 (click here to see this regulation) the refuge bays must be located within the limits of the protection afforded by the self-contained self-rescuers when they are in use. 

Minimum standards for refuge bays

New MHSA regulation 16.6(2) sets out minimum standards for refuge bays. However, employers are reminded that these are minimum standards and that additional considerations may be necessary, having regard to the number of persons likely to be present in the area served by the refuge bay. 

A list of the minimum standards set out in MHSA regulation 16.6(s) can be accessed here.

Examinations and reporting on refuge bays 

New MHSA regulation 16.6(3) requires that refuge bays be examined for compliance with at least the minimum standards. This examination must be carried out at least every 30 days by a safety officer (appointed in terms of Minerals Act regulation 2.17.1), a shift boss (appointed in terms of Minerals Act regulation 2.15.1) or any other employee of higher rank. 

In addition, a further examination at least every 90 days must be carried out by the appointed occupational hygienist (MHSA section 12) or by a person who holds the Intermediate Certificate in Mine Environmental Control, issued by the Chamber of Mines of South Africa, working under the control of an appointed occupational hygienist. A written report on this inspection must be provided to the appointed manager (MHSA section 3(1)(a)) within 7 days of the date of the inspection.