Act now to honour mine victims

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Seven miners died on Monday night and 12 other survived the horrific mine accident at Golden Valley Mine in Kadoma after a carriage carrying 19 employees plunged down the mine shaft.

NewsDay Editorial

The injured were taken to various hospitals in and outside Kadoma.

Regrettably, the accident came hardly a week after Vice-
President Joice Mujuru led commemorations at Hwange Colliery Company marking 42 years since the Kamandama mine disaster which claimed the lives of 472 following an explosion.

From the look of things, it seems like human error as the safety devices which were supposed to be in place were not in place.
This is a grim reminder that part of the deregulation of the workplace which came along with the attacks on industrial democracy was a weakening of occupational health and safety protection.

The country is now one of the worst for health and safety. Both the occurrence of work-related accidents and the health impacts of work practices are far too high. The health and well-being of workers must be given top priority.

So the National Social Security Authority must monitor and enforce the best standards of occupational protections. The authority should also use the precautionary principle otherwise companies must not take risks with people’s lives.

This means using the most internationally up-to-date
prescribed occupational disease lists, toxics use reduction approaches, control of job-related stress and establishing whistleblower hotlines, support and protection so that accidents such as happened in Kadoma will be greatly reduced.

Worker and community health and safety centres across the country should also be established to advise employees about prevention and detection of disease and injury and to provide support for victims. There should be better support for training and development of health and safety representatives in the workplace.

Profit is never worth the price of a dead worker and none of us should face risk of harm while going about our jobs.

Therefore, the families of the victims in the Kadoma tragedy need immediate support, both material and moral. But this will not suffice to prevent similar incidents in future.

A lot more needs to be done to make the working places safe. Following every tragic incident, the country has failed to carry out even the immediate and short-term imperatives, let alone the long-term actions.

The country has failed to respond to the needs of endangered human lives, or to understand the importance of a safe workplace.

What has been done during the Millennium Towers accident one year was mostly to compensate the workers and their families. The process of quantification of victims’ losses showed how society distinguishes between the rich and the poor — the white collar and the blue collar workers.

Putting this moral issue aside, the whole compensation process has been slow, inefficient and inadequate.

The pertinent question is whether we should take measures now so that overall environment at the workplace improves or wait until another tragedy occurs. The real homage to the victims will be to act now.