By HSE East Africa | Thursday May 17, 2018
Quarry workers have been urged to use protective gear. A report by the National Environmental Complaints Committee (NECC) said the workers often expose themselves to dangerous chemicals in the highly toxic environment.
A 15 member task force chaired by Edward Mulewa Mwachinga has over the past one year assessed the administration of quarries towards reorganizing the quarry business in the country.
The task force was commissioned by the then cabinet Secretary on 28th July, 2017, and was required to among other things;
- Assess the state of environmental compliance of all active and inactive quarries in Kenya,
- Assess the status of health and safety compliance of all active and inactive quarries in Kenya and
- Assess the use of explosives in the subsector and the impact of such use in and around the quarry sites;
- Propose mechanisms for the rehabilitation and utilization of inactive quarry sites
Gold miners often handle mercury with bare hands. "Mercury is a very toxic chemical. The miners do this because they are unaware of the health risks they expose themselves to,” the report released last week said.
The committee accused mining companies of failure to rehabilitate sites of mineral extraction. The report says quarrying and mining activities disturb flora and fauna and cause noise pollution.
Last month, two people were buried alive at a quarry in Homa Bay following heavy rains.
Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria suspended quarry activities after landslides killed five people last month.
The report said mining operations affect the hydrological functions and compete with ecologically protected zones such as national reserves, game parks and forests.
"Quarry workers operate in very dangerous environments. Most are unaware of the Occupational Safety and Health Act,” the report said. It said poor planning has led to rapid development of residential facilities near quarries.
"Mining companies should adopt modern technology of dust strapping so that only negligible quantities escape into the environment,” the report stated.
Occupational, public safety and health guidelines stipulate that signs of appropriate font sizes and languages be erected at all quarry entries to warn passers-by of dangerous flying debris and deep pits.
It also demands that all quarry faces and cliffs be fenced. The fence should be at least three metres away from the edge of the cliff.
"Most of these regulations are not adhered to,” the report stated.
Some 200 local and foreign companies are carrying out exploitation and exploration of minerals in the country. The report said quarrying activities have generally hurt the environment and people in the surrounding areas, including quarry workers.
The committee visited quarries in Kamwosor (Elgeyo Marakwet), Kuinet (Usin Gishu), Osiri (Migori), Kobala and Kochia West (both in Homa Bay), Kithiiani (Machakos), Bahati and Pipeline (Nakuru), among others.
Source: The Star