Home » Celebration of ISSA Mining’s 50th Anniversary – Opening Speech

Celebration of ISSA Mining’s 50th Anniversary – Opening Speech

Fig. 1. ISSA mining president Ulrich Meesmann. // Bild 1. Vorsitzender der ISSA Mining: Ulrich Meesmann. Photo/Foto: ISSA

I am very happy today, to see all of you to commemorate the foundation of ISSA Mining 50 years ago, and the remarkable development since then (Figures 1, 2).

Fig. 2. View to the plenum of the 50th ISSA Mining anniversary. //Bild 2. Blick ins Plenum der Veranstaltung anlässlich des 50. Jubiläums der ISSA Mining. Photo/Foto: ISSA

When ISSA Mining was established in 1969, the founding fathers could probably not imagine what would happen over the following 50 years. Yet, the core alignment did not differ from today’s approach: Connect OSH experts across the world to collect and compare good models of OSH practice, disseminate information and aim for mining operations to put the knowledge into practice.

ISSA Mining was one of the first prevention sections initiated by the ISSA in Geneva/Switzerland in 1969. The Scientific Research Institute for Coal Mining in Ostrava/Czechoslovakia, accepted the responsibility for ISSA Mining’s administration. During the first 25 years, ISSA Mining conducted 17 conferences and symposia, mainly in Czechoslovakia, Germany and the USA. The focus centered on the education of miners, prevention of lung disease , coal dust explosions and mine rescue; the scope was later extended to tunneling, next to mining minerals.

The political and economic change in Eastern Europe during the last decade of the millennium affected ISSA Mining largely. In 1993, the Czech Republic was founded, now hosting ISSA Mining and two thirds of its members. With the restructuring of the economy, mines in the young republic closed on a large scale, and not only mining faced downsizing, also the institute that ran ISSA Mining was affected: The number of employees was cut down tremendously, and the focus became more economic. Out of 23 ISSA Mining members in 1990, only six remained. With the current ISSA Mining President Petr Schreiber retiring from his professional position and Secretary General Eva Květenská accepting new responsibilities, the former administration of ISSA Mining indicated a lack of further options to run ISSA Mining, and the ISSA assigned the role to BBG, the German statutory accident insurance for mining.

The new administration used its experience and existing network in mining to broaden the base of members and networks. In 1996, Steinbruchs-BG joined as the German statutory accident insurance for quarrying and helped by extending the focus from underground mining to the closely related sectors of open-pit mining as well as the oil and gas industry. The base grew steadily, and ISSA Mining’s support was sought for increasingly. Strong networks with partners such as the Atlantic Alliance, an international network aiming to increase safety with earth-moving machinery, and the International Mine Rescue Body helped to shape ISSA Mining’s work and to widen the effect.

ISSA Mining supported the FairStone project to improve social standards along the supply chain for natural stone and cooperated with Ministries in Vietnam, Turkey and Laos to transfer knowledge in mine safety. Strong partnerships with mining countries such as Chile and Mongolia came to life, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed with the National Safety Council of India and other stakeholders.

In 2012, we introduced our prevention strategy VISION ZERO, as you are well aware of. It reflects a fundamental attitude based on the idea that every accident at work or on the roads can be prevented if the right measures are put in place. The same goes for occupational diseases, and there is a particular focus on preventing accidents that lead to fatalities or permanent damage to health.

We heard much of skepticism in the beginning, but much more support. The stakeholders began to understand that life is not negotiable; not in mining work, and not in any other situation.

While calling for zero accidents and diseases, we presented the “7 Golden Rules for Safe Mining” to assist operators in implementing prevention measures systematically and in a practice-proven way.

This approach found remarkable acclaim and started to spread fast across the world. The universality and simplicity of the tools led the then 13 prevention sections of the ISSA to an adoption of the strategy as well as of the “7 Golden Rules” in 2015 – as a joint approach across sectors, thus forming the first joint initiative of all 13 sections ever in almost 50 years.

Fig. 3. Become a member and benefit from ISSA Mining. // Bild 3. Werden auch Sie Mitglied und profitieren Sie von ISSA Mining. Photo/Foto: ISSA

At the 21st World Congress on Safety and Health at Work in Singapore, 2017, the ISSA launched VISION ZERO and the guide “7 Golden Rules – for zero accidents and healthy work”. In 2019, the ISSA offers the guide in more than ten different language versions. In the same year, the number of VISION ZERO supporters that publicly committed exceeded 6,000.

At the time of its 50th anniversary, we unite some 150 members around the world, connected by the joint aim to improve health and safety in mining – still reflecting the core idea of 1969, when only six members remained. We are so happy, that “VISION ZERO” has been adapted in more and more countries (Figure 3). This is the most important first step. The second step requires impactful implementation.

In many countries it is still a challenge to achieve the first 10 % on the way towards a world without fatal accidents or permanent damage to health at work. On the other hand, the last 10 % typically make off 90 % of the costs, which means specific challenges achieving the goal.

Author: Ulrich Meesmann, Vorsitzender der Internationalen Arbeitsgruppe Bergbau (ISSA Mining), Bochum/Deutschland