When workers get sick productivity declines and industry suffers. The mining industry is active in many parts of the world where rates of the three leading infectious diseases (malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS) are particularly high. The International Council of Mining & Metals (ICCM) has now published guidelines on how mining companies should respond.
Studies in South African have indicated that cost savings from investment in workplace HIV/AIDS prevention and education programmes are as high as 3.5-7.5 times the cost of the intervention. Fewer data are available regarding industry-based control programmes for other diseases but ICCM says that the cost of TB and malaria can also be significant for mining and metals companies and that: 'Data on direct and indirect benefits suggest that preventative and treatment measures, although incurring an additional cost, have important bottomline benefits. These include increased productivity, decreased overall costs of health care, lower rates of employee turnover, reduced employer liability, improved employee morale and increased access to funding for development. In addition, these three diseases are highly topical and attract media attention, which, if negative, can damage a company's reputation. The positive publicity from good health programmes and securing the social licence to operate far outweigh their costs.'
ICMM's Good Practice Guidance on HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria provides mining and metals company managers with practical information to guide effective action in the workplace. The guidance explains the characteristics of each disease - the stages, signs and symptoms, spread, diagnosis and treatment. The different prevention, treatment and control mechanisms of the three diseases are described. A systematic management process is proposed, comprising nine generic steps to determine the type and level of intervention required.
The document stresses the need for an integrated approach to the three diseases, and highlights the links between them. It also emphasises the need for collaboration between mining and metals companies, communities, and local and international institutions and organisations. The158-page guidance document is freely available online.