ZIMBABWE Platinum Mines Ltd (Zimplats) is under fire from employees who accuse the company of “firing” workers who have contracted pneumoconiosis which is caused by poor health standards in mining operations.
According to the Centre for Disease Control, pneumoconiosis refers to a range of diseases caused by the inhalation of a range of organic and non-organic dusts which are then retained in the lungs.
The CDC further confirms that there is usually a long delay between the time at which a person was exposed to the dust (often over a long period of years) to the onset of the actual pneumoconiosis disease – often 10 years or more.
The wrangle between the workers and the company came after one employee who was recommended to be discharged from employment on medical grounds.
The former employee then successfully proved that the pneumoconiosis disease that prompted the company to fire him was caused by the company’s poor health and safety standards.
NewZimbabwe.com has established that Zimplats ex-employee, Uza Kanyalaza was in 2015 recommended by doctors to be relieved of his duties on the grounds that he was no longer fit for the job since he was infected with tuberculosis.
However, Kanyalaza argued that the disease he was suffering from was not tuberculosis and also that he had been infected because of the dusty environment he operates under at his workplace.
He proceeded to seek for private medical examinations which proved that his lungs had been affected by dust which caused pneumoconiosis.
Kanyalaza successfully registered the case with National Social Security Authority (NSSA) and is due to be compensated.
Another employee whose name NewZimbabwe.com failed to establish is said to have died while receiving treatment at the company’s hospital for suspected pneumoconiosis.
National Mining Workers Union General Secretary, Sylvester Mushaike confirmed the incidents.
“There is an increase in cases of the disease and we are afraid that hundreds of mine workers are confusing this disease with tuberculosis since the two share the same symptoms,” he said.
“It is unfortunate that reputable mining companies are hiding the incidents because they want to keep good records with their partners at the expense of the employees.”Advertisement
Zimplats Head of Corporate Affairs, Busi Chindove, said the company has four confirmed pneumoconiosis and argued that they have never attempted conceal “this” fact.
“We do not think that it is correct to disclose details of a patient’s medical condition publicly, but, in the interests of transparency, we confirm that Uza Kanyalaza was employed by Zimplats from 2006 to 2015,” said Chindove.
“It is important to note that he has a long history of working in the mining industry. Prior to joining Zimplats, Kanyalaza had been working for various mining companies since 1997.”
Chindove added: “He (Kanyalaza) was retired in June 2015 after being diagnosed by Zimplats doctors with a condition that meant he could not continue working in a dusty environment without compromising his health hence the recommendation for retirement on medical grounds.
“In line with regulations in the mining industry his X-rays were sent to NSSA for further assessment and compensation.
“It was confirmed that he was suffering from pneumoconiosis after advanced CT scan tests done by NSSA.
“These are not tests which are routinely done to assess employee fitness to work, so contrary to the view that Zimplats tried to conceal his condition, it is through Zimplats’ compliance and cooperation with regulations that his condition was diagnosed.
“Zimplats regularly tests the work environment for it’s all its employees both underground and on surface to ensure that workers are not exposed to hazardous substances including dust, and these tests go beyond the statutory requirements.”
Last year Zimplats scooped two top national awards for Safety and Health at Work (SHAW).