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Mines safety a must

THE loss of three miners at Mopani Copper Mines (MCM) Mindola North Shaft in an accident in Kitwe on Thursday is deeply regretted.
Loss of any human life, irrespective of the circumstance, is regretted. It is, however, more regrettable if lives are lost in circumstances that could have been avoided. Without seeming to jump the gun, it looks like the Kitwe mine accident could have been prevented.
This is the contention of some families of the deceased miners. They accuse MCM of negligence.
The Mine Workers Union of Zambia (MUZ), on the other hand, is saddened and concerned that at a time that mine safety is expected to keep improving, this accident happens virtually at the start of the year.
The Ministry of Mines, the Mine Safety Department (MSD) and MUZ are expected to conduct a thorough postmortem of the cause of the accident last Thursday. Let this be so not only to fully establish the cause of the accident but to also use this experience to prevent further similar calamities.
There should be a closure to the accident for all parties. This can be best achieved only if there is absolute satisfaction with the investigations.
A properly done investigation will help the MSD and the mines plan activities to avert further accidents.
Any mine accident is a drawback to production as miners are filled with grief and fear while the time spent during mourning tends to eat into production targets.
Beyond the current accident, the MSD and mine unions should carry out an evaluation of the safety of the mines since they came into private hands.
Underground mining, by its nature, presents a range of health and safety hazards that are different from other forms of mining.
Ground instability is the biggest hazard associated with underground mining but this time around, a loader catching fire is the cause of the accident.
One would expect fire safety measures to adequately deal with any outbreak. Accidents do happen, but most can be avoided and those that do occur should not cause loss of lives.
Again, a thorough probe will reveal if safety measures were in place and if these did help prevent a worse turn of events.
This accident yet again brings to the fore the high risks of the occupation. It is, however, an activity that just has to go on. The rewards are humongous but there is no justification for any loss of life. Any death, or even injury, is one too many.
With the improvement in technology, mining accidents have become fewer, more so that mines have invested notably in safety to minimise fatalities.
Ideally, the accidents, and therefore deaths and injuries, must be reduced to zero.
In fact, this is the crusade that the Workers’ Compensation Fund Control Board has initiated. It is called the Vision Zero Campaign, which every employer is expected to be part of.
Vision Zero is a transformational approach to accident and disease prevention that integrates the three dimensions of safety, health and well-being at all levels of work. It is premised on the understanding that all accidents and diseases at workplaces are preventable. Indeed all accidents are preventable no matter how high the risks are.
We hope, therefore, that MCM will not only mitigate the plight of the families which have lost breadwinners but will also up its safety measures even further.
This goes for all other mines and workplaces in other sectors.