Transvaal Training: 8 safety protocols for mining

The mining industry is known for being a high-risk business, presenting health risks in large chasms and open pits. In fact, according to a report by Reuters, South Africa has recorded 32 mining-related deaths in the first half of 2021, compared with 24 deaths last year. The major causes of concern include rock bursts and falls of the ground, accounting for 11 deaths in the year 2021.

This continuous spike in mining-related fatalities has prompted South Africa’s mining industry to improve the health and safety standards of the workers. Through rigorous testing and experience, different mining processes have been tweaked to make the job less hazardous. The Minerals Council of South Africa even mandated a Rock Engineering Technical Committee (RETC) to lessen or eliminate fatalities and injuries.

However, some situations are out of your control, no matter how safe a mining environment is. There will always be inevitable accidents that you may encounter along the way, leading to major injuries and mishaps in the workplace.

Fortunately, there are safety protocols and precautions that you should abide by to lessen tragic incidents in the mining industry. Here are some of them:

Don’t disregard the danger

When you are a miner, you have to embrace the risks and dangers that you can encounter during your shift. Accept the fact that working in the mining industry will always be hazardous, regardless of the safety precautions in place. Stay alert, don’t let your guard down and watch out for your colleagues as much as you can.

Keep in mind that even the smallest mistake or a second of carelessness can lead to deaths and major injuries, so always be on the lookout.

Wear protective gear

One of the most effective ways to eliminate risks in mining environments is to wear personal protective gear at all times. These gears can protect you from extreme temperatures, impacts and hazardous chemicals, among other things.

Here are some examples of protective equipment needed in mining:

  • Safety glasses

Most mining operations across the globe require miners to wear goggles, face shields, safety spectacles and a full facepiece respirator in some cases. Since dust and dirt are constantly floating around the mine, you need protective equipment to keep the debris out of your eye.

If you have to deal with chemicals, the best eye gear to wear is a pair of safety goggles to prevent the chemicals from splashing into your eyes. However, if there are welding sessions on the site, make sure that you wear a full face shield to protect yourself from grinding residues and flying particles.

  • Hand and foot protection

When working in a mine, miners should have ironclad hand and foot protection. You must wear durable steel-toed boots that can either be waterproof or have a puncture-proof sole.

In hand protection, all you need is a pair of safety gloves made in cotton or leather. 

  • Hearing protection

Heavy machinery, power tools and underground vehicles used daily can generate extremely high levels of noise, creating long-term damage to one’s hearing. Along with this, the confined spaces of a mine can increase the risk of hearing loss.

Workers must wear ear-muff protectors which are mounted on the cap. However, you also have the option to use earplugs if you need to wear face shields and other accessories.

  • Appropriate clothing

Since mines mostly have confined and small spaces, workers must stay visible to each other. Along with flame-resistant cotton coveralls, they must wear strips of reflective clothing so they won’t be accidentally crushed by moving vehicles underground.

Moreover, miners who work with drills and other heavy equipment should wear rain suits to protect themselves from lubricating oils and hydraulic oil.

You should also carefully consider the temperature when choosing what to wear during your shift. For instance, if you work in open-pit mines during the winter season, you should wear thermal socks, wind-resistant pants and a parka with a hood.

However, in underground mining, heat becomes the number one problem. To protect yourself from heat stress and heat stroke, make sure to bring frozen gel packs and drinking water with added electrolytes. Also, don’t forget to wear heat-resistant socks, gloves and boots.

Have a thorough plan

Before starting your shift, it’s always crucial to develop a plan, whether it’s an underground or an open-pit project. Take the time to think about the most ideal approach to develop mining procedures and lessen the risk of potential mishaps in the workplace. In this way, there are enough measures put in place to guarantee the safety of the entire crew.

For instance, miners should assess the environment, especially when it comes to blasting operations and drilling design. Investigate rock characteristics and possible aftermaths so you can properly plot the sequence of events, helping you reduce the unknowns.

Mining operations can also make use of the latest mining technologies to establish comprehensive mining plans. For instance, geographic information systems (GIS) allows you to have a deeper understanding of how geographic relationships affect the environment. With GIS, miners can solve real-life problems where accessibility is extremely critical.

Other uses of GIS include:

  • Geochemical and hydrology data
  • Report generation
  • Mineral exploration
  • Facility and tailings management

Practice lifting precautions

When working in confined spaces, workers tend to have awkward postures and unusual positioning that can lead to musculoskeletal injuries in the long run. Since mining is a physically demanding job, high-intensity work routines can result in uncomfortable working conditions. You will be required to lift heavy objects left and right to complete necessary tasks, putting extreme pressure on your back and neck

This is why workers must take lifting precautions at all times. Here are some tips to keep you guided:

Keep the heavy object close to your waist

To avoid putting so much pressure on your back, keep the object to your waist as much as possible. If possible, make sure to hug the load for a more solid grip.

Plan before you lift

Before lifting any type of heavy object, ensure that you have a plan. Know the exact place where the load is going to be placed and its estimated weight. In this way, you’ll figure out if you need some help when carrying the object, or if you can accomplish the task alone.

However, if the load is too heavy, you can use equipment like a hoist to help you with the lift. Make sure that you remove any obstructions on the way to avoid accidents.

Be aware of fire hazards

Mining environments pose possibilities for fire accidents, especially if you’re involved in coal mining or gas-rich terrains. 

Since tunnels and underground shafts are tightly closed, flames and smoke can quickly spread. This is why fire suppression apparatuses must be strategically placed to prevent fire incidents, as well as sensors to warn workers in times of danger. Miners must also make sure that they wear fire-resistant protective gear to lessen the degree of burns.

Improve communication

In mining environments, having clear and straightforward communication is essential. Workers should relay information about the working conditions, mining activities and potential accidents that can happen in some areas. 

Although mobile devices can be used for effective communication, the signal can be non-existent when you’re underground. Instead, most mining operations use on-site communication systems to transfer messages and information between miners.

Get professional training

No matter how skilled you are as a miner, getting professional training and certifications is a part of your job. When you know the ins and outs of your job, the routine may feel too comfortable and familiar on your end. As a result, you may disregard the safety precautions and forget vital procedures needed for a safe mining operation.

Moreover, training sessions will teach you theoretical and practical components that can enhance your skills and safety as a miner. And if you’re a worker who will be constantly involved in physically demanding tasks, you will be required to undergo health and fitness checks.

Supervise your crew

If you are a supervisor or a team lead, make sure that you supervise your team throughout the shift. The workers must follow safety measures with no exception, so you must be assertive and strict. Aside from that, you need to be aware of the whereabouts of your members in case an accident occurs on the site.

When a miner continuously violates the safety rules and displays disobedience during their shift, ensure that there are appropriate consequences for their actions.

In addition, you need to document and clearly define safety procedures among your team members. Inform them about the process on how to report and describe incidents, what needs to be done and whom to contact during mishaps. Make sure that these safety precautions are easily understood to avoid miscommunication.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *