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close this bookABC of Women Workers' Rights and Gender Equality (ILO; 2000; 124 pages)
View the documentThe International Labour Organization
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View the documentPreface to the earlier ABC of women workers' rights
View the documentPreface to the new ABC of women workers' rights and gender equality
Open this folder and view contentsIntroduction: Labour standards promoting women workers' rights and gender equality (Ingeborg Heide1)
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View the documentUnderground work in mines
View the documentUnemployment benefit
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Underground work in mines

Mines are surface or underground sites where the exploration and preparation for and the extraction of minerals takes place.

According to the Underground Work (Women) Convention (No. 45) of 1935, in principle no female of any age should be employed in underground work in mines. A new instrument concerning safety and health in mines, Convention No. 176, was adopted in 1995, aiming at the protection of all employees (male or female) in mines. It covers a wide range of measures to be implemented by the competent authorities and the social partners concerning:

• the supervision and inspection of safety and health in mines;

• the procedures for reporting and investigating fatal and serious accidents, dangerous occurrences and mine disasters;

• the compilation and publication of statistics on accidents, occupational diseases and dangerous occurrences;

• the power of the competent authority to suspend or restrict mining activities on safety and health grounds; and

• the establishment of effective procedures to ensure the implementation of the rights of workers and their representatives to be adequately trained, informed and consulted on matters relating to safety and health at the workplace.

Employers should take all necessary measures to eliminate or minimize the risks to safety in mines under their control; this implies the preparation of emergency plans, training, information and protection of workers.

Under Convention No. 176, workers are granted the right to report accidents, dangerous occurrences and hazards, to request and obtain inspections and investigations, to be informed of workplace hazards, to leave the worksite in dangerous situations, and to collectively select safety and health representatives. Workers also have the duty to comply with the prescribed measures, to take reasonable care of their own safety and health and that of other persons, to report risks and to cooperate with the employer to permit compliance with his or her duties.

This development of standard setting which shifts emphasis from the protection of specific groups of workers to the protection of all workers is similar to that described for night work.

Only a small number of women work in large mines, but the number in small-scale mining reaches almost one-third of the workforce. The proportion of women workers in mines ranges from less than 10 per cent (in Asia) up to 60 per cent (in some mining areas in Africa). Many of them work part time, and under particularly harsh conditions and with poor remuneration.

C. 45: Underground Work (Women), 1935
C. 176: Safety and Health in Mines, 1995
R. 183: Safety and Health in Mines, 1995

→ see Labour inspection and Night work

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