High prevalence of substance use is reported among mine workers. This contributes to accidents, injuries as well as fatalities which has enormous effect on both the employers and workers. For that reason, the mining industry is regulated by the government with acts, policies and guidelines related to safety. Non-compliance to safety regulations attract heavy penalties. The mining industry therefore employs a zero tolerance policy on substance use. Despite this policy previous research reported high levels of substance use. There is a lack of research about the perspectives of mine workers regarding the use of substances. Following earlier work with mineworkers, the researcher was intrigued and eager to understand mineworkers opinions on this subject and regarding policies in their workplace.
The study was conducted within a qualitative research framework. Twenty semi-structured interviews were done with black male mineworkers from the mines around eMalahleni (Mpumalanga) who were referred to SANCA following disciplinary hearings regarding substance use. The interviews were conducted in different African languages preferred by participants. This allowed for rich data as they expressed themselves freely using appropriate idioms to express opinions crisply. With the participants permission, the conversations were tape recorded for transcription. The Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was used to analyse the data. Themes were generated to describe the mineworkers experiences and the meanings they attach to substance use and mining policies. These themes were ordered and classified in a systematic way.
The results provided an understanding of the participants reasons for use of substances. Substance use is seen as part of traditions and of mining culture. The urge for use is exacerbated by high levels of stress caused by the dangerous working environment and the living conditions in mining hostels. The research highlighted the complexity as well as the conflict arising from dissonance between safety policies and mineworkers behaviour. It also confirmed that, although they are in place in the mining industry, policies still need to be enforced firmly.
Results confirmed that disciplinary outcomes and decisions bear serious implications for workers and their families. The resultant stress may even contribute to further substance use as a way to cope. This underlines the need for early firm enforcement of policies to stem use timeously. To enhance safety by curtailing risky behaviour, continuous education on policies is essential.
Mini Dissertation (MA)--University of Pretoria, 2016.