Occupational accidents & diseases – The price paid by humankind

Apart from human and social burdens, the International Labour Organisation has estimated that total costs of occupational accidents and diseases amount to approximately 4% of the world’s GDP – a colossal figure that is over 20 times greater than official development assistance.

Mining – Most hazardous operation, peacetime

Mining accounts for only 1% of World Employment but it accounts for 7% of fatal accidents at work place.

Accidents & disasters – Indian mining

An analysis of major accidents and disasters during 1901-2016, in Indian mines revealed that:

  • About 380 major accidents (involving fatalities of 4 or more persons) resulting in about 3980 deaths.
  • Out of these, there were 69 of mine disasters (involving fatalities of 10 or more persons) claiming about 2377 deaths.

Protecting life of miners – State intervention

One way to reduce the risk to miner’s life is to enact and enforce preventive regulations which specify things that should or should not be done, rules which if complied with, will keep the risk within acceptable limits.

Traditionally, the regulatory framework in Indian mines has been prescriptive which was found to be less effective in delivering the desired benefits in terms of safety. One pertinent problem is that prescription can never be complete. When the industry and technology evolve at a decent pace, prescriptive regulation inevitably lags behind.  This means that there will be always areas of activity that are not effectively covered by the existing regulations, and in other areas in which the regulations are obsolete or inapplicable.

Amendment in legislation & risk management

The limitations of prescriptive regulation ushered a paradigm shift in the hazard management concept, which led to the view that the responsibility for safety in mining lay with the management. It is the obligation of employer to maintain a safe work environment by identifying hazards, assessing and controlling risks within reasonably acceptable limit.

Dr. A. K. Sinha evolved an integrated approach and procedures for introducing safety & health risk management processes in Indian coal and non-coal mines. The Approach has influenced innovative changes in the existing mining statute. Preparation of ‘Safety Management Plan (SMP)’ for every oil and coal mine has been included as a statutory requirement in recently amended Oil Mines Regulations’ 2017 & Coal Mines Regulations’ 2017. The concept is also included in the Metalliferous Mines Regulations’ 2019, presently under final stage of amendment. The Approach & processes cited were used in the field, and based on case studies, three guidelines were issued by the Regulatory authority to mining industry for development and implementation of (i) Safety Management Plan (SMP) and (ii) Emergency Response & Evacuation Plan (EREP).

The ‘Approach & processes’ aligned with Indian regulatory guidelines and expectations of ISO 45001:2018, outlines a complete framework to describe the issues which organisations need to address to manage health and safety effectively. It provides guidance to stakeholders (employers/managers/workers) on managing health and safety through processes where hazards have been identified and health and safety risks are being controlled across all the organisations activities, with a robust emergency management protocol.

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