Mining experts adopt new Code of Practice on safety and health in underground coalmines

Experts representing workers, employers and governments, meeting at the
International Labour Organization (ILO), adopted a new Code of Practice on
Safety and Health in Underground Coalmines designed to improve the safety and
health of those who are involved in one of the world's highest risk activities.

The new Code was adopted by 23 government, employer and worker experts on
Saturday, following a six-day meeting here. The Code is to be submitted to the
ILO Governing Body in November 2006 for endorsement.

The Code takes into account changes in the underground coalmining sector that
have revolutionized working conditions over the past 20 years. Coalmining is a
significant activity in some 50 countries, providing fuel to allow economies to
industrialize, and to permit energy and steel production.

The new code of practice will replace an existing code, adopted in 1986. The
new code reflects the many changes in the industry and its workforce, as well
as the development of new ILO instruments on occupational safety and health.

The code sets out a national framework that specifies the roles of the
competent authorities, employers, workers and their organizations. It also
comprises a methodology for identifying hazards preventing and minimising
risks, as well as specific provisions for safe underground coalmining
operations. These specific provisions address most of the currently-identified
hazards and risks associated with underground coalmining.

The importance of coal is witnessed by unprecedented growth rates in its
consumption and production, particularly in Asia. This positive trend is
further strengthened by recent developments in the coal industry, including
technologies such as coal liquification or gasification and clean coal
technologies that will contribute to further and sustainable demand for coal.

Historically, underground coalmining is one of the highest risk activities for
workers' safety and health. Highlighting the seriousness of safety and health
issues in underground coalmining, the tripartite experts observed a minute of
silence in memory of the victims of an accident in China, which occurred during
the course of the deliberations.

Significant, sustained improvements in coalmining occupational safety and
health have been achieved as a result of new technologies, capital investment,
continuous training and changes in attitudes to safety and health among the
competent authorities, employers, workers and their representatives.
Nonetheless, if a safety net, which includes a number of critical checks and
balances, is not in place to assess and control the hazards, accidents and
occupational diseases can and do occur.

When used in conjunction with the code's methodology for hazard identification,
risk assessment and control process, these up-to-date, detailed provisions
represent current best practice. At the same time, the code is drafted in a way
to not inhibit the development of new technologies, better practice or the
adoption of alternative measures that provide effective protection to all
persons involved in underground coalmining.

Thus, it provides important practical guidance in support of the provisions of
the Safety and Health in Mines Convention, 1995 (No.176) and its accompanying
Recommendation, (No.183).

The recommendations of the new ILO code of practice are intended for the use of
all those, both in the public and private sectors, who have responsibility for
safety and health management in underground coalmines. The code is not intended
to replace national laws or regulations or accepted standards.

In their recommendations for follow-up action the experts stressed the need to
disseminate and promote the code of practice. In addition, all experts
manifested their support for the ILO's work on occupational safety and health,
an issue on the agenda of the International Labour Conference in June 2006, and
called for issues related to small mines, the impact of coalmines on
communities and a systems-based approach to health and safety to be further

More information

AplusA-online.de - Source: International Labour Office (ILO)