Issues relating to occupational health are dealt with at board level by the SHE Audit Committee, by the group Exco and at an operational level by the operational management committees and the safety and health committees. See Safety section for more information.
Occupational health screening and medical treatment is delivered through company-based clinics, own and contracted occupational health centres and hospital and contracted specialists. Primary and curative care is provided at company medical facilities and through a range of medical schemes which are available to our employees and their dependants.
All employees undergo entry, annual, exit and transfer medicals, both to ensure that they are fit for work in their specific work environments and that any occupational disease is detected at an early stage to ensure early treatment and reporting so as to minimise the impact on employees and the company.
Potential occupational health threats are:
The following is a summary of performance for the group as a whole.
In total, 51,410 medical examinations (employees and contractors) were undertaken at our operations during FY2007 (FY2006: 44,440) – 14,201 entry, 4,586 exit and 32,623 annual and transfer medicals.
|Operation||Entry||Exit||Other (transfer and periodic)|
Historically in the mining industry employees have enjoyed a level of medical care at mine-based facilities. In recent years Implats has focused on providing affordable and appropriate private primary and curative care to employees and their dependants. This has primarily been done through our Impala Medical Services, based in Rustenburg, where employees and their dependants (through a 50% co-payment) could access high-quality health care at competitive prices.
However, given the fact that Implats’ operations now extend beyond the vicinity of Rustenburg and that many employees’ dependants live outside the Rustenburg area, alternative medical schemes and service providers have been selected (in cooperation with the unions) to provide appropriate and affordable medical care to employees and their dependants.
The implementation of these new schemes has not been without challenge and the necessary education of employees regarding the choices available to them is being facilitated to ensure that the promised benefits are delivered.
Implats provides occupational health care to all its employees at the company facilities in Rustenburg and Springs and at Marula, Mimosa and Zimplats.
Comprehensive hearing conservation programmes are in place at all operations to reduce the risk of employees developing NIHL. In South Africa these programmes are aimed at reducing noise levels at source to below 110dBA, in line with the South African Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC) targets, and to provide personal hearing protection devices, either custom-made noise clippers or disposable earplugs, to employees and permanent contractors who work in high-risk areas. Education of employees regarding NIHL and the use of hearing protection devices continues, as individual non-compliance remains one of the most significant challenges to their implementation.
At our Rustenburg operations, a personal noise monitoring programme is currently in place which is aimed at monitoring the levels of noise to which employees are exposed. Annual reports are submitted to the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) as required by legislation.
A key element of the hearing conservation programme is to reduce noise levels at source. This is being achieved by phasing in the use of muffled rockdrills, a programme which is set to be completed by 2011. Although a significant reduction in noise levels can be achieved through this programme, continuous trials are conducted by the new technology department in an effort to reduce noise levels even further.
In FY2007, 54 new cases of NIHL were identified and submitted for compensation in line with legislation. All employees working in noisy environments have undergone audiometric baseline examinations and are carefully monitored with follow-up annual audiometric tests for early signs of hearing loss.
Every at-risk employee undergoes chest X-ray screening as part of the annual TB screening programme. At our Rustenburg operations, the newly acquired digital X-ray unit has greatly assisted in the early detection of pulmonary TB through advanced digital technology and the associated expeditious X-raying of employees and digital capturing of information. In FY2007, 348 employees were diagnosed with TB: 313 of these employees were at our Rustenburg operations (FY2006: 275). This represents an incidence of 1,181 per 100,000 employees per year, an increase of 13.8% on FY2006, which is attributed to the progression of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. TB is the most common HIV-associated infection in southern Africa. Employees diagnosed with TB receive treatment in line with the World Health Organizations directly observed treatment supervision (DOTS) guidelines.
|Operation||Number of cases|
The World Health Organization has developed directly observed treatment supervision (DOTS) guidelines for TB. Internationally recognised, this TB control strategy combines five elements:
A thermal stress management programme is in place at Impalas mining operations, given the higher temperatures present in the deeper level underground workings. Every underground employee undergoes heat tolerance screening which is followed by a closely supervised 12-hour self-acclimatisation shift in a hot underground environment. A total of 15,915 heat tolerance tests were conducted during the year. High temperatures experienced underground are associated with the increased occurrence of heat stroke. No cases of heat stroke were reported during the period under review.
In light of the increasing number of women working underground and an observed predisposition by women to heat intolerance, heat stress management is an issue of greater concern and is receiving the necessary attention. Approximately 30% of 1,569 women tested failed the heat tolerance screening, while only 4% of the 14,346 men tested failed the test. The companys code of thermal management is currently under review.
Dust monitoring systems are in place at all underground mining operations. The geology of PGMs, supported by an extensive analysis of airborne dust, has confirmed that (unlike the gold mining industry) there is no alpha quartz present in the orebody. However, in FY2007, six cases of silicosis were detected among employees who had previously been employed in the gold mining industry. Details of these employees have been submitted to the Medical Bureau for Occupational Diseases (MBOD) (see box below), for reporting and assessment for possible compensation.
There is currently no occupational exposure limit for diesel particulate matter in South Africa. Impala participates in a tripartite committee that has been mandated by the Mining Occupational Health Advisory Committee to set these limits. A comprehensive baseline assessment was conducted at a mechanised mining section of one of the shafts at Impala and, when compared with current international standards, the results indicate that there is a significant risk of exposure to diesel particulate matter. A control strategy is currently being developed to address methods of reducing personal exposure in this regard.
Biological monitoring is undertaken of specific employees who may be exposed to chromium, arsenic, carbon disulphide, nickel, cadmium and lead. No new cases of allergy to the complex salts of platinum (ACSOP) were reported during the year.
The Medical Bureau for Occupational Diseases (MBOD) forms part of the National Department of Health and fall under the Chief Directorate: Non Communicable Diseases. It is this bureau that carries out examinations for medical benefits and undertakes the certification of former and current mineworkers.
Implats is committed to achieving the long-term objectives of the MHSC in respect of NIHL and occupational health disease.
The performance of its various operations in terms of occupational health is detailed below.
Altogether 38,701 medical examinations were carried out on employees and contractors at our Rustenburg operations during the year under review (FY2006: 34,744). Of these, 9,794 were for those entering the company (entry examinations), 24,854 were annual tests and for employees being transferred while the balance, 4,053, were performed on people leaving the company.
In FY2007, there were 54 new cases of NIHL detected and submitted for possible compensation in line with legislation. All employees working in noisy environments have undergone audiometric baseline examinations and are carefully monitored with follow-up annual audiometric tests for early signs of hearing loss.
Six cases of silicosis were detected among employees who had worked in the gold mining industry in the past.
Employees who may have been exposed to arsenic, cadium, carbon disulphide, chromium and nickel underwent biological monitoring and all results were within normal range. There were 65 examinations for lead and the results were as follows:
The legal limit for lead-in-blood levels is currently 60 ug/dL.
There were 3,503 medical examinations held for employees and contractors at our refineries in Springs during FY2007 (FY2006: 4,242). The breakdown for the examinations was as follows:
No new cases of NIHL identified during FY2007 (FY2006: 1).
There were four new cases of TB detected during the period under review (FY2006:0).
A total of 3,251 medical examinations took place at Marula in FY2007 (FY2006: 3,666). Most, 1,603, were carried out on new employees (entry examinations), followed by 1,236 on employees being transferred or having periodic examinations while 412 employees were tested prior to leaving the company.
One new case of NIHL was detected in FY2007 (FY2006: 0).
There was a slight increase in the incidence of TB at the mine, with the number of cases detected reaching seven in FY2007, from six in FY2006.
During FY2007, 939 medical examinations were carried out at Zimplats (FY2006: 701). The majority of tests, 849, were for new employees (entry examinations); of the rest, 30 were for those leaving the company (exit examinations) and 60 for workers being transferred or undergoing periodic medical examinations.
Since FY2003 there have been no new cases of NIHL identified at Zimplats.
With respect to TB there were 14 new cases diagnosed in FY2007 (FY2006: 1).