Death traps?


In a heart-rending incident, three mine workers died due to exposure to a poisonous gas inside a coal mine in Balochistan’s Dukki district. The incident highlights the plight of labourers working at mines without any safety measures as every year 100 to 200 labourers die while working in these death traps. The gas explosion in coal mines occur mainly due to methane or dust ignition or both. Usually large air circulation fans are used to dilute the methane concentration brought down to 5-15 percent in the coal mine and to reduce chances of coal dust catching fire, the coal surface is covered by spreading lime dust over it. From the repeated accidents happening in coal mines at various parts of the country, it is evident that there is laxity on part of Mining Directorate who is not carrying out mandatory inspections to make sure that measures are taken to reduce methane concentration. Moreover, in the latest tragedy, the government did not provide any help to retrieve the bodies of mine workers. Are we still running our mines as per our eighteenth century routine? What are the changes, if any, which have been adopted by the mine owners and lessees? What has been done to ensure the safety and well being of the mining labourers? Or does the government’s duty finishes just after the deceased person’s body reaches his home town? The laws governing the system must be changed to suit today’s working conditions around the world and conditions created to lessen the burden on the shoulders of the labourers involved.

Fatalities in the coal-mining sector in the country are becoming commonplace highlighting the need for better labour protections. There are strong arguments that zero harm at workplaces can be achieved if companies commit themselves to the highest safety standards. In order to achieve this, management and workers should work as a team to enforce safety rules and regulations at the workplace. Management’s obligation is to put in place measures to ensure a safe working environment while workers on their part should observe safety rules and regulations. Some of the accidents that occur at the mines are a result of negligence by workers which means they can be avoided. It should be the responsibility of each and every worker to quickly raise the alarm when he or she observes any slackening in the enforcement of safety measures and management on their part should promptly respond to such alarm. It is also the responsibility of the concerned government authorities to monitor working conditions at mines on a regular basis and it they find any non-compliance, work should be halted promptly to avoid the loss of human lives.