Occupational injuries and fatalities in copper mining in Zambia


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Abstract

BackgroundThe metal mining industry employs ∼15% of formally employed workers in Zambia, but there is little information about the magnitude of occupational injuries among the miners.AimsTo determine the frequency rates of occupational injuries and fatalities among copper miners in Zambia.MethodsA retrospective study of occupational injuries and fatalities at one of the largest copper mining companies in Zambia was undertaken for the period January 2005 to May 2007. Information on injuries and fatalities was obtained from the electronic accident survey database of the company. Analysis was restricted to fatalities and those injuries that had prompted medical attention and at least 1 day of absence from work. Annual injury and fatality frequency rates (injuries per 1000 employee years and fatalities per 100 000 employee years, respectively) were calculated.ResultsIn the selected period, 165 injuries and 20 fatalities were recorded. The underground department had the highest frequency rates of fatalities (111/100 000 employee years) and injuries (5.5/1000 employee years). The most common cause of fatal injuries was fall of rock in the underground mines. The most frequent mechanism of injury was handling of tools and materials, and the most commonly injured body parts were the hands and fingers.ConclusionsThe fatality rate is high compared to reported values from the metalliferous mining industry in developed countries, strongly suggesting that measures should be taken to reduce risks, particularly at underground sites.

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