Union outraged as two workers crushed at marble quarries

By Jade McClune

THE Mineworkers Union of Namibia’s Western (Erongo) Regional office has expressed total dismay and disappointment following the news of yet another major workplace injury at the Usakos Wallastonite mine situated approximately 10 km south of Karibib, adjacent to the Otjimbingwe Road.

MUN regional organiser George Ampweya said the latest incident took place in the production area of the said mine at around 14h00 on 2 October in that piece of metal equipment (a shoot) weighing at least 100kg fell on a worker’s back who was doing maintenance work, immediately fracturing his vertebrae.

This comes a week after a similar incident was reported of a marble block that weighed at least 20 tonnes fell on a mineworker, shattering his entire right leg. The last-mentioned incident took place at one of the marble and granite cutting quarries in the region owned by Dream Land lnvestments cc, located some 25km alongside the Karibib – Okahandja road, the MUN said.

The two workers were hospitalised in Windhoek and their conditions are said to be improving gradually. “Upon physical inspection of the respective accident scenes and comprehensive reports it remains evident that both these very serious incidents were attributed to very poor safety standards and at times non-existence of any health and safety procedures,” Ampweya said.

The Labour Act of 2007 in chapter 4 stipulates health and safety guidelines at any workplace. The MUN noted with worry “the disregard and intentional non-compliance with health and safety regulations in these particular sectors and call upon the labour inspectors in the region to jointly compliment the union’s efforts to restore strict compliance with health and safety regulations at these mines.”

Language barrier

Ampweya said the union was also aware of the “serious language barrier between the Namibian workers and their Chinese colleagues, who we have learned work as direct supervisors of the Namibian workers, and at times as heavy earth moving equipment operators. Clearly this is bound to compromise safety at the place of work.

“ln most instances, apart from being unable to communicate in English, the Chinese workers – similar to the local employees – do not receive any pre-employment induction; there are no adequately trained safety representatives; no first aid kits are available and no first aid responders at designated areas of work at most of these quarries.”

The MUN further called upon mining inspectors especially to help tackle serious cases of non-compliance and determine ways to ensure compliance, “especially from Chinese companies, as the safety of these employees in these sectors is greatly compromised at the expense of reaching production targets.”

He said the union has time and again renewed its demand that employers who compromise the safety of their employees be called to order and that “their operating licenses be suspended and/or cancelled” because all operations should be in strict compliance with existing health and safety regulations.

“Equally, these should serve as a warning to the companies operating in the marble and granite extracting sector that the MUN intends to see to it that proper health and safety mechanisms are in place and are strictly adhered to.”