Labour, Working Conditions, Health and Safety


Claude Kabemba's picture

Director of the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW)

January 13th, 2014


Mining can affect the health, safety and security of workers and mining communities. The negative impact of the exploitation of nature resources in Africa is very pronounced on workers and communities. Mining companies have been criticised for neglecting the working conditions of their workers and focussing solely on profit making. Accidents often result in the loss of life or limbs. Efforts must be directed towards the development and adoption of mining methods that will increase the safety of workers and communities and reduce the number of accidents. Towards this end, the participation and co-operation of mine workers and communities is essential. Steps must also be taken to minimise the adverse impact of mining on the health of workers and the surrounding populations.

Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Labour, Working Conditions, Safety and Health Issues

i.            All mining companies must adhere to internationally recognised human rights conventions and standards as articulated in the declaration of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

ii.            All mining companies must fully comply with the various ILO standards in their employment practices and human resource management.

iii.           Mining company labour laws should be reviewed to conform with the hazardous conditions of extractive industries.

iv.            All mining companies must accept and implement the principle of equal pay for equal work.

v.            All mining companies must accept the right of workers to assemble, organise, belong to trade unions and political parties of their own choice, and strike.

vi.            All mining companies must agree to take full responsibility for, and pay meaningful compensation to, workers injured at work or suffering from occupational diseases and ill health.

vii.            All mining companies must accept the rights of an employee to refuse to work in an unsafe environment.

viii.            All mining companies must promote the establishment of effective procedures to guarantee the rights of workers and their representatives to be consulted on all matters and to participate in measures relating to safety and health in the workplace.

ix.            Mining companies, on the basis of general principles of occupational health and in accordance with national laws and regulations, must provide regular health surveillance of workers exposed to occupational health hazards specific to extractive industries.

x.            Governments must establish competent Mining Health and Safety Commissions that can suspend or restrict mining activities on safety and health grounds, until the conditions that gave rise to the suspension or restriction have been addressed. The Health and Safety Commission must:

a.       Conduct regular monitoring and assessments of the working environment to identify any hazards to which the workers may be exposed and to assess their level of exposure; and

b.      Inform the workers, in a comprehensible manner, of the hazards associated with their work, the health risks involved, and relevant preventive and protective measures

xi.            All mining companies must desist from introducing productivity bonuses and incentives that might undermine workplace safety. 

xii.            Mining companies must implement safety and health management systems for workers based on internationally recognised principles and standards as articulated in the ILO’s and the UN Global Compact and assess the effectiveness of these systems through periodic audits.

xiii.            Government and industry must invest in community safety, awareness and preparedness to respond appropriately to accidents and emergencies that have serious impacts on health and the environment.


  It was launched in 1999 by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. It is based on 10 broad principles which cover four key areas: human rights, labour, environment, and anti-corruption.

 Awareness and Preparedness for Emergencies at Local Level (APELL) could be used. APELL is a process which helps people prevent, prepare and respond appropriately to accidents and emergencies. APELL was developed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in partnership with industry associations, communities and governments following some major industrial accidents that had serious impacts on health and the environment.


About the author(s)

Claude Kabemba is the Director of the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW). In 2006, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) asked him to spearhead the formation of SARW. He holds a PhD in International Relations (Political economy) at the University of the Witwatersrand (Thesis: Democratisation and the Political Economy of a Dysfunctional State: The Case of the Democratic Republic of Congo). Before joining SARW, he worked at the Human Sciences Research Council and the Electoral institute of Southern Africa as a Chief Research Manager and Research Manager respectively. He has also worked at the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the Centre for Policy Studies as Policy Analyst. Dr. Kabemba’s main areas of research interest include: Political economy of Sub Saharan Africa with focus on Southern and Central Africa looking specifically on issues of democratization and governance, natural resources governance, election politics, citizen participation, conflicts, media, political parties, civil society and social policies. He has consulted for international organizations such Oxfam, UNHCR, The Norwegian People’s Aid, Electoral Commissions and the African Union. He has undertaken various evaluations related to the work of Electoral Commissions and civil society groups interventions in the electoral process in many African countries. He is regularly approached by both local and international media for comments on political and social issues on the continent. His publication record spans from books (as editor), book chapters, journal articles, monographs, research reports, and newspaper articles.


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