New Mandatory Code of Practice Guidelines issued in terms of the Mine Health and Safety Act

New Mandatory Code of Practice Guidelines issued in terms of the Mine Health and Safety Act
03 Feb 2020

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (“DMRE”) recently gazetted three Mandatory Code of Practice Guidelines in terms of the Mine Health and Safety Act, No. 29 of 1996 (“MHSA”).

The Guideline for the Compilation of a Mandatory Code of Practice for the Management of Working in Confined Spaces (GNR 29 of 2020), the Guideline for the Compilation of a Mandatory Code of Practice for the Prevention of Flammable Gas and Coal Dust Explosions in Collieries (GNR 28 of 2020) and the Guideline for the Compilation of a Mandatory Code of Practice for the Management of Self-Contained Self-Rescuers in Mines (GNR 27 of 2020) will all take effect on 1 July 2020.

1. The Guideline for the Compilation of a Mandatory Code of Practice for the Management of Working in Confined Spaces

This new guideline is aimed at ensuring that employers develop a Code of Practice in the management of working in confined spaces as well as the elimination of confined space related incidents. Confined spaces are defined, in the guideline, as “an enclosed or partially enclosed space that is not intended or designed primarily as place of work” with particular hazards posed to employees working within that confined space.

Employers are required to develop their Code of Practice in line with the guideline, which includes the creation of a drafting committee who will be responsible for the drafting of the Code of Practice. The Code of Practice must include, at the very least:

i. A register identifying confined spaces through the mine’s risk management process, which includes conducting a risk assessment into the identified confined spaces;

ii. Appointments, roles, and responsibilities of relevant employees associated with confined space work;

iii. Control measures for work in confined spaces;

iv. A permit system, in terms of which no employee may enter into or work in a confined space without a confined space entry permit;

v. An energy and isolation lockout procedure specifically for identified confined spaces;

vi. Identified atmosphere measures and standards applicable within a confined space, as well as atmosphere and monitoring systems within that space;

vii. Ventilation assessments;

viii. Standby persons or control attendants specifically for confined space work;

ix. Personal protective equipment for work in confined spaces with identified risks of unsafe oxygen levels or airborne contaminants;

x. Communication procedures for employees working in and around confined spaces;

xi. Entry and exit procedures for work in the confined spaces;

xii. Signs and barricading are in position before work is carried out within the confined space;

xiii. Employee training procedures for those employees working in and around a confined space;

xiv. A system of work for the inspection and maintenance of control measures;

xv. A detailed, task specific confined space rescue plan;

xvi. Declarations of fitness to work in a confined space of employees by an occupational medical practitioner;

xvii. Record keeping of all confined space related documentation; and

xviii. A systems review and revision process for confined space procedures, risk assessments, entry permits and control measures.

In addition to the Code of Practice, the employer must prepare an implementation plan for its Code of Practice that makes provision for issues such as organizational structures, responsibilities of functionaries and programs and schedules for the Code of Practice which will enable proper implementation of the Code of Practice.

2. Guideline for the Compilation of a Mandatory Code of Practice for the Management of Self-Contained Self-Rescuers in Mines

This new guideline is aimed at ensuring that employers develop a Code of Practice (“COP“) in the management of procedures intended for the appropriate deployment of Self-Contained Self-Rescuers (“SCSRs”) in mines, within the context of Chapter 16 of the MHSA Regulations. The use of SCSRs is considered as a mitigating measure in emergencies where employees must evacuate a mine whilst being exposed to irrespirable atmospheres resulting from unwanted events in the mine. The COP is intended to assist the employer to manage all aspects associated with the deployment of SCSRs and is to be used in conjunction with the guideline for the compilation of a mandatory COP for Emergency Preparedness and Response which it is intended to complement.

The Code of Practice should address, at the very least, the following aspects unless there is no significant risk associated with that aspect in relation to deployment of SCSRs at the mine:

i. The SCSR selection criteria used at the mine;

ii. SCSR logistics management procedures;

iii. Issuing and deployment of SCSRs;

iv. Training procedures in the use of body worn self-contained self-rescuers (“BWSCSRs”);

v. Procedures for functional performance testing;

vi. Reporting and recordkeeping procedures for SCSR related issues;

vii. Maintenance, incident management and disposal of SCSRs; and

viii. Instruction manuals on the use of SCSRs.

An implementation plan for the Code of Practice will need to be prepared, as well as measures for monitoring and ensuring compliance with the Code of Practice.

3. Guideline for the Compilation of a Mandatory Code of Practice for the Prevention of Flammable Gas and Coal Dust Explosions in Collieries

This guideline, following a MRAC task group investigation to advise on measures to be taken to minimize the risk of flammable gas and coal dust ignition and/or explosions at collieries in South Africa, was first issued in 2002 and has been revised to take effect on 1 July 2020.

In terms of scope this revised guideline defines topics which need to be addressed in the COP to significantly reduce the risk of flammable gas or coal dust explosions in collieries, extending to the control of sealed-off areas, a topic which was not included in previous versions of the guideline. Importantly, this guideline supersedes previously issued directives and/or instructions by the DMRE dealing with Mechanical Miner Ventilation and the previous guideline for the compilation of a mandatory code of practice for the prevention of coal dust explosions in underground coal mines [GME 7/4/118-AC1].

In addition to general information about the mine, the Code of Practice must set out how significant risks identified and assessed in terms of the risks assessment processes will be addressed. The Code of Practice must indicate who is responsible for undertaking each task and what should be achieved, including the following aspects:

i. Procedures for preventing the accumulation of an explosive concentration of flammable gas;

ii. Procedures for the early detection of flammable gas;

iii. Measures to ensure the ignition of flammable gas;

iv. Procedures for the reporting of flammable gas intersections;

v. Procedures to ensure that the clearance of flammable gas accumulations is done safely;

vi. Measures for the limiting of the formation and dispersion of coal dust;

vii. Measures to ensure compliance with requirements relating to effective achievement of coal dust inertisation;

viii. Measures to ensure compliance with requirements relating to sampling and analysis of stone-dust samples;

ix. Measures to ensure compliance with requirements relating to the design of explosion propagation barriers to prevent the spread of coal dust explosions is achieved; and

x. Measures to prevent the accumulation and ignition of flammable gas and/or explosive mixtures in confined spaces on surface.

Importantly, the guideline has a variety of annexures which must be complied with and incorporated in the Code of Practice.

See also:

(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
Nicholas Veltman
Nicholas Veltman

Nicholas Veltman is a Partner at Eversheds Sutherland's mining department. He deals principally with issues relating to mining law, and construction and engineering. He has extensive experience in general corporate...

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