The Mine Health and Safety Act (MHSA), Act 29 of 1996 was promulgated following the outcomes of the Leon Commission. Before the promulgation of the MHSA, the safety of the South African mine workers was provided for in the Mines and Works Act No. 12 of 1911 and its applicable regulations.
The Mines and Works Act no. 12 of 1911 was repealed by the Mines and Works Act No. 27 of 1956 and after that, Act No. 27 of 1956 was repealed by the Minerals Act No 50 of 1991. It should be noted that the Minerals Act was focused predominantly on the Safety issues in the mining industry with no emphasis on promoting the occupational health status of the workers. The Leon Commission identified various shortfall in the Minerals Act regarding both occupational health and safety of workers in the industry and the following recommendations were made:
- The new Mine Health and Safety Act was to be drafted so that it can provide the comprehensive legal framework for creating a healthy and safe working environment;
- Restructuring of the enforcement agency;
- Promulgation of regulations on rock falls and rock burst;
- Promulgation of regulations and measures to protect the health of workers including occupational and medical surveillance programmes with specific reference to Tuberculosis;
- Restructure research institutions and health information systems;
- Ensure appropriate training and certification of all workers in the mining industry
It was after intensive discussions and consultations between government, employers and employee representatives that many of these recommendations were incorporated in the Mine Health and Safety Act (MHSA), 29 of 1996.