Healthy miners uplift communities

A proactive approach to health and well-being among miners can assist in preventing injury or illness, which allows mining companies to uplift communities

The value of an integrated programme to manage risk and proactively protect the health and well-being of the workforce should not be underestimated.

Dr Jacques Snyman, clinical development expert for Agility – a division of medical aid scheme provider Health Squared – says: “One of the most direct means for the private sector to meaningfully contribute towards addressing inequality in our society is to make provision for the health and wellness needs of their employees.”

Access to healthcare and education are key factors in reducing poverty and stimulating productivity that drives economic growth. The mining industry is a big contributor to the South African economy and is a major employer. It has the potential to leverage investments in the health of its workforce to realise improved productivity.

A large number of employees within the mining industry are still becoming ill or incapacitated, due to occupational injuries, such as falls, or illness, including respiratory diseases such as silicosis.

Access to affordable, comprehensive healthcare and screenings can go a long way towards improving productivity, retaining skills and knowledge, and managing associated risks.

While personal protective equipment, such as hearing protection or masks, can prevent injury or illness, screenings will be able to identify potential harm before it is irreversible or becomes debilitating. Most mines have a healthcare programme in place, but additional support and wellness services can further assist in ensuring the workforce remains productive.

“What is required is a holistic approach – a comprehensive disease-management programme that can assist valued staff members who have chronic conditions to remain compliant with their prescribed medication,” Dr Snyman notes. “It also ensures staff members are empowered with the information they need to keep themselves healthy.”

Stress, especially post-traumatic stress, can have a devastating effect on staff performance. As people learn more about how mental health impacts job performance, mining companies should include mental well-being in their health programmes. A comprehensive approach can even lead to savings according to Dr Snyman.

“An approach that encompasses occupational health, preventative and curative care, as well as productivity and well-being, including absenteeism management, mitigates risk for employers, but also prevents more costly problems developing in future,” he explains. In addition to reducing costs associated to illness or injury, mines can also save on costs associated with absenteeism or resignation.

Healthy workers will engage more at work, be more productive and more able to perform their duties for longer. Companies would also not have to invest money into recruiting or training new employees.

Approaching a medical aid scheme to manage employee health can benefit companies. Dr Snyman explains: “There are considerable advantages to having a single point of contact to integrate and support health and well-being initiatives among employees of all levels on an ongoing basis.”

Health Squared has its Agility Mining solution that specifically caters for mining companies. It is underpinned with physical and biometric data that focuses on preventative care, which is seamlessly integrated with the employees’ curative care programme – including occupational health and medical scheme cover.

This is only one of 11 benefit options offered by the medical scheme provider.

Bianca Viljoen, director of distribution at the company, says: “Agility StaffCare, which is fully tax deductible, takes care of primary health among low-income employees by providing access to a dedicated network of private healthcare providers for day-to-day health needs.

“Holistic preventative care and productivity management is provided through Agility Employee Wellbeing, including absenteeism management, while Agility Life offers group risk benefits.”

In addition, the rewards programme provides access to services such as telephonic advice and trauma counselling – the latter of which is particularly useful in an industry prone to accidents. Employers can also consider investing in gap or co-payment cover, health savings and health screenings.

“If implemented in a properly integrated manner, the enhanced efficiencies and benefits in terms of risk mitigation that can be achieved outweigh the costs associated with such an investment. Ultimately, this leads to improved profitability for employers, thereby benefiting the wider economy. In addition, staff members are empowered to live healthier and remain economically active contributors to society,” Viljoen concludes.

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