Mine Safety Implementation 

The Commission recently published a report analysing the implementation of two very similar Health and Safety at Work Directives - 92/91/EEC (on mineral extraction through drilling) and 92/104/EEC (on surface and underground mineral extraction). These Directives were adopted in order to provide minimum health and safety requirements for workers in the mineral extraction industries.

Background

The mineral extraction industries do not fall within the scope of Directive 89/654/EEC (the Directive which establishes minimum health and safety requirements for the workplace). This is because workers in this sector are likely to be exposed to particularly high levels of risk. As a result, two individual Directives were created, which made specific provision for these sectors: Directives 92/91/EEC and 92/104/EEC.

Directive 92/91/EEC applies specifically to the safety and health of workers who explore and exploit minerals by means of boreholes (onshore and offshore).

Directive 92/104/EEC covers the remaining sectors of the extractive industries, i.e. exploration for and exploitation of minerals in surface or underground mines and quarries.

The Directives are very similar in terms of practical implementation as they both lay down minimum health and safety requirements for those employed in the extraction industries.

Aim of this Report

The main objective of this report is to evaluate the implementation of health and safety legislation in the mining sector. A secondary objective is to draw lessons on the implementation of the Directive in the EU-15 that could be applied more widely to the new Member States.

Principal Conclusions

The report concludes that the implementation of these two Directives is relatively satisfactory and that accident rates in the extractive industries are down. Larger companies, particularly in the drilling sector, are reported to be performing well in following the requirements laid down in these Directives. The report warns however that SMEs appear to be less well-equipped to put an effective health and safety policy into place. According to the Commission, this observation is particularly true of the ornamental stone-quarrying sector.

Training Requirements

The report notes that differing training requirements between Member States can hinder the free movement of workers. It therefore encourages authorities and social partners in the in the extractive industries to step up their efforts to reach an agreement on training requirements applicable to workers throughout the EU, depending on the scale and/or type of risk.

Safety and Health Documents

The report also notes that not all companies devoted the appropriate amount of attention to the drawing up of up to date safety and health documents (SHDs). Consequently, it encourages a greater awareness of the importance of SHDs among workers' representatives.

Subcontractors and the Self-Employed

According to the report, problems occasionally appear to arise because workers hired by subcontractors, usually for temporary or seasonal work, lack training. This is moreover given as the most likely explanation for the higher number of occupational accidents involving them. The Commission has therefore resolved to look at the specific problems involving subcontracting.

Enforcement

A potential problem highlighted by the report is the number of enforcement authorities dealing with legislation applicable to the extractive industries. This is because labour inspectorates in some Member States do not deal with the extractive industries and special bodies have been set up to oversee the sector instead. As a result, the report recommends that mutual cooperation and information exchange between the various health and safety bodies in each Member State should be improved so that all aspects of health and safety policy are covered comprehensively.

Red Tape

To reduce red tape, the report recommends that Member States should consider combining the SHD and other documents required for operations in the extractive industries in order to avoid the need for companies to produce several separate documents of a similar nature.

Possible Amendments to Directive 92/104/EEC (on mining)

One possible amendment to Directive 92/104/EEC would be separating out coal-mining from the extracting and mining of other minerals, because of the specific problems inherent in these two sectors. Another would be including more detailed provisions on how to protect workers that operate equipment from the risk of undetonated explosives and those hidden in rock piles to be removed, the temporary installation of safe havens or safety chambers in tunnels where preparatory or development works take place until permanent escape routes are installed, and the fitting of fire extinguishers and self-rescuers to vehicles.