Injured Ex-Mineworkers Disability and Rehabilitation

Name of Project/Study:  A rapid assessment of the disability and rehabilitation of ex-mine workers living in 4 countries in Southern Africa: Lesotho; Mozambique; Swaziland and South Africa.
Duration of Project/Study: 6 months
Start of Project/Study Year/Month: 1 July 2016 to 31 December 2016

Overview:  What the project/study is about?  Who is involved?  Benefits/Achievements of the Project/Study

South Africa is recognized as a world leader in the mining industry, with a valuable concentration of raw materials including platinum, gold and diamonds. This industry attracts mineworkers from across the Southern African Development Community (SADC) as well as from all provinces throughout the country. More than 100,000 workers in the mining industry come from Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, or Botswana, and approximately 80 percent are concentrated in the gold mining industry.

People working in the mines have a high risk of occupational injury and disease, including hearing loss, due to the very nature of the work being high risk and hazardous.  Depending on the role, the risks can multiply and the results of accidents can often be catastrophic and life changing.  Injuries as a result of these accidents can include loss of a limbs, head injuries and hearing impairments.  This results in disability and has impact on all aspects of the persons’ daily life.

The Mine Health & Safety Act 29 (MHSA) of 1996 and the Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC) which was set up in 1996 to direct safety in the mining industry and to respond to industry safety challenges have played a significant part in the reduction of injuries sustained while working in mines in South Africa.  Over the past 21 years’ safety statistics have improved.  The Chamber plays an important facilitative and coordinating role in effecting improvements in the area of safety and health. While today, most large scale mines comply with the MHSA legislation, historically here appears to be a variation in the provision, quality and access of rehabilitation to injured ex-mine workers.  This is compounded by the large migrant labour force of ex-mine workers living in neighbouring countries to South Africa where there may be little or no access to rehabilitation service.  The financial cost and health system burden to labour-sending countries is substantial.

The main regulatory framework for occupational health and safety and the compensation for occupational injuries and disabilities in the South African mining industry is influenced by the Mine Health and Safety Act (Act 29 of 1996); the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) (Act 130 of 1993) and the Occupational Diseases in Mine and Works Act ODMWA (act no. 78 of 1973).   COIDA remains the key legislation for mine workers who have sustained an injury on the mine.  This act is governed by the SA Department of Labour and administrated by the Directorate of Health and Occupational Hygiene.  In COIDA, mine workers who have had an injury are assessed and classified as either partial temporary disability; full temporary disability or permanent disability.

The Rand Mutual Assurance Company Limited (RMA) administers workmen’s benefits under COIDA to Class IV mine employees injured in the scope of their employment.  As a compensation body for mine workers they focus on the treatment, rehabilitation and compensation of occupational injuries.  RMA’s insurance liabilities can be divided into short- and long-term liabilities.  Short-term liabilities include lump sum benefits and medical expenses for total temporary and permanent disability. Long-term liabilities relate to the ongoing payment of medical costs and pensions for permanent disability where the percentage of disablement is in excess of 30%.  For COID, RMA offer Medical treatment, TTDs, disability and life cover calculated in accordance with the provisions of COIDA.  RMA administer approximately 80% of injuries from the mines.  The remaining 20% fall under the Department of Labour’ Workmen’s Compensation Fund.
Despite systems and processes in place for occupational Injuries, issues relating to injured mine workers may still remain around the following:

  • Dismissed injured ex-mine workers sent back home who were never informed about compensation and as such are possibly due compensation.
  • The processes of compensation and treatment not meeting the needs of ex-mine workers living across the 4 countries.
  • Access to the ongoing support and treatment and the acceptability of these services that may be needed over the course of the injured mine workers lives.

For mine workers who sustain an injury, timely and appropriate rehabilitation has been shown improve health outcomes and enable them to manage the resulting disability.  Rehabilitation reduces the negative impacts of long term sickness absence, further promoting participation in society as well as the individual’s independence and their rights.  Vocational rehabilitation for mine workers has also been shown to aid in the return to work or suitable alternative employment, which in turn also has socio economic and health benefits.

However, a review of the literature revealed a paucity of information specifically relating to ex-mine workers with disabilities as a result of injury from working on the mines.  The evaluation and review of the systems, process and ongoing support for ex-mine workers following injury within the mining sector is also very limited leading to a lack of knowledge and awareness as to whether or not the needs of injured ex-mine workers have been and/or are being met.

The Deputy President of South Africa is leading on an initiative to improve the service delivery to current and ex-mineworkers with respect to health, social and rehabilitation services as well as access to compensation and other social protection benefits through a One Stop service delivery framework. The One Stop service delivery framework aims to provide the following:

  • A comprehensive database of current and ex-mineworkers;
  • Mapping of where mine workers and ex-mine workers are; mapping where the mines are and mapping current services
  • Delivery of health, social and rehabilitation services
  • Access to compensation services
  • Access to social protection benefits such as Unemployment Insurance, Provident and Pension Funds.

This initiative is supported by various government departments, employer organisations, unions, development partners, NGOs and ex-mineworker associations.

In line with this, the World Bank is supporting an initiative to better understand aspects relating to ex-mine workers who are disabled through a mine related injury across the 4 countries as part of a wider review of issues for mine workers.  This study therefore aims to look at 4 key areas via the following activities:

  1. The number, location and type of disability in ex mine workers;
  2. The challenges and needs of these ex-mine workers with injuries/disability in terms of their rehabilitation and compensation
  3. Understanding the impact of their disabilities on their daily lives from a sample of ex-mine workers
  4. Suggesting a model for rehabilitation moving forward.

This will provide valuable information to help shape and support future services and models of service delivery for all current and ex-mine workers across borders, particularly those who have had an injury while working on the mines.