In a recent IOSH-funded study conducted by Cardiff University, “Representing miners in arrangements for safety and health in coal mining: A global perspective,” researchers examined “the history of representation on OSH and the nature, operation and context of present-day arrangements for worker presentation on OSH in coal mining.”
The study examined conditions in Australia, Canada, India, Indonesia and South Africa, using relevant statutory provisions from each country as the basis for a qualitative investigation of the effectiveness of those regulations on mine workers.
In examining these conditions in each selected countries, the researchers found a disparity in the level of occupational safety and health and in the influence that workers have in OSH decision-making.
In Australia, for instance, the study confirmed that regulations had been effective in representing mine workers interests in that inspections and incident investigations were taking place, and that workers were able to raise safety and health matters to management and stop unsafe work without fear of repercussions. Similar circumstances were found in Canada, where workers participate in safety committee meetings and have a level of influence on safety and health outcomes.
In India and Indonesia, on the other hand, although a regulatory framework is in place, in practice the miners’ level of influence was limited by management. For Instance, in India, although inspections were conducting and miners were able to sit on committees, they felt they had little influence on the outcome.
One barrier to effectively addressing these differences is the structure of regulations themselves, which in some cases were either poorly developed or modified in practice. Additionally, management commitment and well-trained and informed occupational safety and health professionals were identified as important keys for success. This study emphasizes the importance of mine worker involvement and feedback in the process of making occupational safety and health decisions to ensure that they can perform their tasks safely.
The common threads among countries that were successful and proactive about safety and health were that they had a clear regulations in place, commitment from management and the involvement of safety professionals.
The report offers the following conclusions:
- Worker representation plays a major role in the success of OSH practices and outcomes in the advanced nations studied.
- In developing countries for regulations, managerial commitment and miner representation could have a positive impact on occupational safety and health.
- The theories about effectively representing miners’ OSH interests can extend globally and provide an appropriate way of understanding the support for and constraints to effectiveness.
- There is a global dimension to policy and practice in safety and health in mining in which nationally based state, corporate and individual actors are not sole players and that global regulatory bodies also have an essential role.
The findings were based on qualitative analysis of interviews with a relatively small number of informants from each country, along with data from documentary sources, so the researchers recommend that greater empirical research is needed to substantiate the findings.
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