Among the first sectors to be offered a reprieve by government and resume operations after the nationwide lockdown kicked in was the mining industry.
This industry, which employs nearly half a million people and already one of the most hazardous industrial sectors due to high safety risks and ill health of miners, has the potential to become a hotbed of COVID-19 infections.
The shifting of gears back up towards full-capacity production, after the stringent level 5 lockdown prevented a full complement of miners on site, has resulted in a steep increase in positive cases among miners.
With over 5000 positive cases of the virus already reported and 42 COVID-related deaths (according to the DMRE Budget Vote Speech delivered in Parliament on 21 July 2020), the industry has been compelled to drastically increase its infection control measures to ensure that it does not become a hotbed of tragedy.
Emma Corder, Managing Director at Industroclean (a manufacturer and supplier of industrial cleaning equipment and products) believes that a proactive approach must become the norm in order to save lives and protect mine-workers and their families.
“The obvious place to start is with education on hygiene and sanitation,” she says.
To this end, most mines have implemented strict PPE measures for anyone entering the premises and restrictions on outsiders moving around within the mine area.
For companies like Industroclean, tasked with ensuring that mines remain as pathogen free as possible, this has meant tailor-making a context-sensitive solution to address the rigorous requirements of each area of the mine, whether it be the workshops, offices, health centres, change rooms or the red areas where access is strictly controlled.
Corder explains that the cleaning methods and products used are dependent on the areas which need to be cleaned.
“For example, one of the most effective methods for disinfecting hard to reach surfaces against COVID-19 is hot water high pressure cleaning above 70 degrees Celsius, while for floors an industrial floor scrubber and dryer machine may be used,” she explains.
During these times the commitment of cleaning companies to ensure that their products are used optimally, requires working closely with their clients and other companies in the industry to provide training on the correct cleaning methodologies, in the interest of meticulous health and safety standards.
Corder believes that, in light of the continued spread of COVID-19 and the pressure to maintain productivity in a sector which cannot afford further losses, the logical priority is to strengthen the fundamentals of cleaning practices in order to protect lives.
“Our duty of care must include an investment and a re-invigoration of our cleaning protocols from the ground up to ensure ever-higher standards of products and services,” she says.
The unabated spread of COVID-19 brings into sharp focus the debate around ‘life’ and ‘livelihood’ thereby posing a potentially tragic dilemma for employers and employees alike.
Corder says that, within this environment, cleanliness is a fundamental building block of health and safety practices and the mining industry needs to be fully confident that its cleaning partners perform to the highest standards, using reliable and regulated products.
“Mines must ensure that their cleaning partners follow ‘best practice’ to ensure the safety of their employees – their most precious resource,” concludes Corder.