Mining employers required to review and amend mandatory code of practice on exposure to airborne pollutants



The Guideline for the Compilation of a Mandatory Code of Practice for an Occupational Health Programme (Occupational Hygiene and Medical Surveillance) on Personal Exposure to Airborne Pollutant (the Guideline) was published in the Government Gazette on 06 April 2018 and is effective from 30 April 2018. It replaces the previous guideline (ref DME 16/3/2/3-A1) published in 2002. For a copy of the Guideline, click here.

Employers whose risk assessment has indicated a need to imp​lement and apply systems of medical surveillance and/or occupational hygiene measurements are required by the MHSA to implement a code of practice based on the Guideline. Employers would be well advised to prioritise a review of their current code of practice, risk assessments and procedures and to ensure that the necessary processes are followed to allow for the timeous review and, where necessary, amendments to be effected to ensure compliance with the latest Guideline.

The Guideline retains the key elements to be addressed in an Employer's code of practice and provides more guidance to the Employer on the required content of the code of practice and the aspects required to be taken into account and addressed by the Employer.

Material changes / additions to the Guideline, which must now be specifically addressed by Employers, include:

  • Far more detail regarding the types and level of risk assessment that must be conducted by the Employer. Both a qualitative and quantitative risk assessment process must be set out to be followed by the Employer and which must take into account all factors influencing the health of employees. For more detail regarding the content of the Guideline in respect of risk assessment requirements for occupational hygiene click here.
  • Greater detail in respect of the determination of Homogenous Exposure Group (HEGs) including the manner in which sampling areas at a mine should be subdivided and the subdivision of sampling areas in an underground mining environment based on ventilation districts (and the criteria for an area to be classified as a ventilation district). Annexure A to the Guideline must be complied with in respect of the subdivision of sampling areas into activities using the supplied activity area code list. Further detail regarding the determination of HEGs can be found here.
  • The need to identify and address any airborne pollutant where previously only significant airborne pollutants needed to be noted. Where there is no statutorily determined occupational exposure level for a particular pollutant, the risk assessment conducted should determine how the pollutant must be addressed in the code of practice. Further, as part of the determination of HEGs, the Guideline states that where there may be insufficient historical exposure data regarding the extent of a risk, a personal monitoring survey must be undertaken for each identified airborne pollutant.
  • A requirement that a continuing sampling strategy be established together with sampling strategy schedules, sampling methodology, chemical analysis methodology and gravimetric weighing facilities for each identified pollutant and no longer only significant pollutants. A summary of the obligations for continuing sampling can be found here.
  • Specified measures to ensure that the personal exposure monitoring meets the retained objective of being accurate, meaningful and representative of all full working shifts. This includes ensuring that monitoring is measured and compared to occupational exposure limits per working shift, randomly spread over the full sampling cycle period for each HEG and randomly spread across all occupations within the HEG. The code of practice must specifically include a section address the training programme associated with all aspects of this monitoring programme.
  • A description of the quarterly mandatory reporting required to be submitted to the Mine Health and Safety Inspectorate. Details of the reports required can be found here.

The revised code of practice must be implemented by the Employer along with an implementation plan and measures to monitor and ensure compliance the code of practice and the Employer must ensure that all employees are fully conversant with relevant sections of the code of practice. Employers are reminded that if applicable to an operation, a failure to prepare a code of practice in line with this Guideline amounts to a breach of the MHSA.​​​