Underground mining in the South African gold fields presents a number of occupational health challenges for management and employees. Exposure to dust, silica and noise are serious workplace hazards, and may result in occupational lung diseases, such as silicosis, pulmonary tuberculosis, and noise-induced hearing loss.
Over the years the South African gold industry, along with important stakeholders, has developed responses to these hazards. The Mine Health and Safety Act of 1996, in seeking to promote a culture of health and safety in the industry, regulates the duties of employers and employees in identifying hazards and eliminating, controlling and minimising health and safety risks.
At both the group’s mining operations, employees have access to a medical station that provides primary healthcare and emergency stabilisation services on site. Both facilities are managed by Netcare, an independent medical service provider. Primary healthcare includes the provision of all acute and chronic medication, including that for HIV/Aids and TB.
Emergency services provide a 24/7 ambulance which is available to both mines. Patients requiring emergency services are transported to private hospitals in the vicinity, where medical specialists are also available in the event that an expert opinion is required, or expert procedures need to be performed.
VMR is currently establishing its own on-site occupational health centre. In the meantime these services are provided at the nearby Harmony Gateway Medical Centre.