All mineworkers and ex mineworkers who contract a lung disease caused by exposure to harmful dusts on the mines are entitled by law to apply for compensation from the State. The law that confers these rights to miners is called the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act of 1973 (ODMWA).
While in service, mineworkers undergo regular medical examinations to check for possible occupational lung diseases.
Ex mineworkers are entitled to a free Benefit Medical Examination (referred to as a BME) every two years at facilities accredited to conduct the requisite examinations.
When mineworkers die (of any cause) their families are entitled to request a free autopsy to determine if the miner had an occupational lung disease at the time of death. If so, the dependents are entitled to apply for compensation from State under ODMWA.
ODMWA cover various lung diseases including:
Miners who are still working for mining companies undergo regular medical checks to see if they have an occupational lung disease. These are arranged by the employer.
If the mine medical practitioner identifies signs of occupational lung disease during any entry, exit or periodic medical examination of the worker the practitioner must submit their report and findings to the Medical Bureau for Occupational Diseases (MBOD) in Johannesburg.
Ex-miners are entitled by law to undergo free BMEs every two years at medical facilities accredited to provide such services. These results are also sent to the MBOD.
The MBOD appoints a panel of doctors (the Certification Committee) to review the medical reports submitted to determine if the worker is suffering from an occupational lung disease.
It can happen that the certification committee finds that a person is not suffering from a compensable occupational lung disease even though another medical doctor has diagnosed such a disease. Most often this happens because in terms of the ODMWA an occupational lung disease is only compensable if it results in moderate or severe lung function impairment.
When an ex-miner dies (for any reason), the family should advise the attending doctor that the deceased was a mine worker. The doctor should contact the Director of the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH) to make the necessary arrangements for the deceased’s heart and lungs to be removed during an autopsy. These must be sent to the NIOH in Johannesburg, where a pathologist will examine them for signs of disease. The costs should be carried by the MBOD. The autopsy report generated by the pathology division of the NIOH will be submitted to the MBOD Certification Committee, which decides whether the miner or ex minor was suffering from a compensable occupational lung disease. If so, the claim is referred to the Compensation Commissioner for Occupational Diseases (CCOD), who is responsible for payment.
Compensation will be paid after certain administrative processes have been completed. Historically, there have been long delays in the processing of payments. Efforts are underway to reduce the delays usually associated with the payment of compensation.