Mining workers suffer as diseases increase

mining_1HARARE - Zimbabwe's mining sector has had an increase in the number of workers suffering from pneumoconiosis due to dusty operations at the workplace, according to the National Social Security Authority of Zimbabwe (NSSA).

Zimbabwe has undergone an economic crisis over the past 10 years. This

has left most companies either bankrupt and forced to close or operating on shoestring budgets. Those that have chosen to carry on, particularly industrial operations, are forced to make shortcuts in order to break even and remain afloat. This means that the companies operate using old machinery that is prone to polluting both the environment and the work space. Such operations have compromised the welfare of workers who are exposed to dust.

According to Dr H .Mapuranga, Head of Department Occupational Health Services for NSSA, pneumoconiosis is a disease of the lungs resulting from excessive exposure to dusty operations at the workplace. He said the disease was contracted by exposure to organic and inorganic dust.

Mapuranga said workers in other sectors, including foundries, quarry mining, open cast mining, stone cutting, sand blasting, pottery sector and boiler houses were also at risk, but mining was the hardest hit.

From January to June 2010, 12 cases of pneumoconiosis have been diagnosed in the mining sector compared to two cases in 2009.

There is need for employers in these sectors to safeguard their employees by creating safe working environments for them and educating them on the dangers of some of these diseases,” said Mapuranga.

He added that there was under-reporting of pneumoconiosis cases in Zimbabwe because it was very expensive for companies to carry out the tests. The NSSS conducts regular pneumoconiosis surveillance programmes, occupational health courses for nurses and x-ray reading courses for occupational health doctors to educate them on diagnosis of diseases like pneumoconiosis.

The rapid expansion of mining, mineral extraction, construction, and other industries places many new workers at risk each year. Hygienically poor working conditions often expose workers to high concentrations of respirable dust. The health risk is increased by the high prevalence of tuberculosis in Zimbabwe and neighbouring countries.

Accurate statistical data on occupational diseases in developing countries is rare.

Over the past few years, Zimbabwe has experienced a boom in small scale mining activity and monitoring for such diseases in that sector is scarce – if indeed any is being done at all. Miners from the sector are at great risk of suffering from pneumoconiosis as some of them are now engaging in blasting operations.

Post published in: Analysis

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