Risk management is an issue that all South African firms must take seriously and so it is no surprise that there is demand for occupational health and safety courses in the country. Meanwhile, although protecting worker wellbeing is vital in all industries, it can be a particular concern in dangerous sectors like mining.
The issue of mine safety has been in the headlines over recent weeks thanks to South African lawyer Richard Spoor. He has moved to file a class action suit against more than 30 gold firms on behalf of 17,000 former miners who say they contracted the debilitating lung disease silicosis due to health and safety failings.
According to a Reuters report, the attorney filed for class certification for an action for damages in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.
Silicosis is an occupational lung disease that develops over time when dust containing silica is inhaled by workers. Sufferers experience a range of symptoms, including coughing, shortness of breath and chest tightness.
At present, there is no cure for silicosis. However, patients can be treated to reduce inflammation and to enhance their lung function. It is also important that they take action to avoid contracting other lung diseases that would damage the remaining healthy lung tissue, such as pneumococcal infections.
Commenting on his legal case, Mr Spoor said: “We need to ask the court for permission to proceed on a class action basis. We filed the papers last week, and that matter will have to be argued in the court if it’s opposed.”
He expects the matter to be heard in April or May of this year.
In order to reduce the risks to their staff members’ health and to avoid potentially long and costly legal action further down the line, companies must take advantage of relevant occupational health and safety measures.