Yoliswa Dube-Moyo, Matabeleland South Bureau Chief
Regular testing for pneumoconiosis among miners reduces the risk of lung cancer and other respiratory diseases, which is key to achieving “Vision Zero”.
Pneumoconiosis can cause impairment, disability and premature death. The two main types of pneumoconiosis that affect miners are coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP) and silicosis.
CWP, commonly called black lung, affects workers in coal mining. Silicosis can affect workers in many types of mines and quarries, including coal mines.
According to experts, medical treatment cannot cure these diseases, so preventing them – through controlling respirable dust exposure – is essential.
Occupational Safety and Health expert Dr Mbongeni Sibanda said miners are at risk of developing pneumoconiosis due to their exposure to airborne respirable dust.
“This type of dust includes extra fine particles that people can inhale into their lung tissue. Miners can also have an increased risk of dying from lung cancer,” said Dr Sibanda.
He said risk increases when miners experience exposure to exhaust from diesel engines for five or more years.
“Exposure to exhaust from diesel engines has the potential to produce symptoms typical of asthma. Diesel exhaust exposure may also contribute to other respiratory symptoms which include irritation of the nose, inflammatory changes in airways, and lung function decline. Other respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), may also occur in miners. These diseases can occur alone or in addition to pneumoconiosis,” said Dr Sibanda.
“Vision Zero” is a transformational approach to prevention that integrates the three dimensions of safety, health and well-being at all levels of work.
Safe and healthy working conditions are not only a legal and moral obligation — they also pay off economically.
International research on the return on investments in prevention proves that every dollar invested in safety and health generates a potential benefit of more than two dollars in positive economic effects.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), around two million workers die every year due to occupational accidents and diseases and at least 402 million people suffer from non-fatal occupational injuries.
Joint estimates by the World Health Organisation and ILO highlighted that from 2006 to 2016, work related diseases were responsible for 81 percent of all work-related deaths, with deaths due to occupational injuries accounting for the remaining 19 percent of work-related deaths.
The occupational risk factor with the largest number of attributable deaths was exposure to long working hours
Occupational accidents and diseases are estimated to contribute to 5,4 percent of annual global gross domestic product lost. – @Yolisswa