Every workplace has some types of health and safety hazards that people need to be aware of. When it comes to the mining industry, however, there are significantly more hazards to be concerned with. To make matters worse, the hazards in this industry are often far more dangerous than they are in most other workplaces.
“Safety and health in America’s mining industry made significant strides during the 20th century and over the last 35 years in particular. In 1978, the first year the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) operated under the new Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, 242 miners died in mining accidents. MSHA continues to work to reduce injuries, illnesses and death through strong enforcement as well as active outreach, education and training, and technical support to the mining industry.”
Identifying the Risks and Steps to Improve Mining Health and Safety
This is why it is so important for all mining companies to take their workplace safety very seriously. The following 10 mining health and safety tips will help you to identify risks and take steps to address them as soon as possible. When implemented properly, this can help make the workplace safer for everyone involved.
Tip #1 – Respiratory Protection
When working in or near mines, it is critical to take care of your lungs. For generations there were people who would get ‘black lungs’ after working in coal mines or other similar areas. This is because as you are breathing, you are bringing the dust and debris from the air into your body.
In order to keep your lungs healthy, everyone that is working in a mine should make sure they are using the proper (and provided) respiratory protection. In some cases this may simply be a face mask that will keep any dust out of your lungs. In others, you’ll need to wear more advanced protection. The mining company should evaluate the specific needs in each situation, and provide the proper protection to ensure mining health and safety. Click HERE for a great podcast on respirator safety basics.
Tip #2 – Hazard Communication
When there is a hazard in an area, it is essential that people know about it. In order to ensure everyone is aware of any potential danger, the mining company should focus on improving hazard communication throughout the workplace.
Unlike many workplaces, the actual mine that people are working in will be constantly changing. As the miners work, the tunnels may change and even the requirements for structural integrity can be shifted. Keeping everyone aware of what changes are being made is absolutely essential.
This is especially important when major changes are made. Having an industrial label printer (like the LabelTac 4 PRO) for updating signs, labels and verbal communication can help to maximize the mining health and safety related to the physical layout of the mines where people are working.
Tip #4 – Explosive Safety
The use of explosives in mining is quite common. In fact, it can become so common that some people are tempted to take safety shortcuts because they think they have the experience and knowledge to perform these actions.
The fact is, however, that every mining company should have detailed safety policies in place when it comes to how explosives are handled, stored and used. There should never be any situation where people decide to go around the safety regulations because even a small mistake can lead to serious injuries, cave-ins or even fatalities.
Tip #5 – Fall Protection
When most people think of mining health and safety, they don’t really think about the risk of falling. This is because mining is commonly done on or even under the ground. The fact is, however, that falls can take place in any environment, so you need to plan for them.
Depending on the type of mine, there are likely a variety of different fall hazards that are present. This could include falling down a mining shaft, or even just slipping down a steep side of a hill or mountain. Whenever working in a location where falling is a possibility, make sure that the proper safety equipment is in place.
Tip #6 – Electrical Safety
Most mining environments have many different pieces of electrical equipment that are used on a regular basis. The issue is, these devices may need to be moved to all different locations both inside and out of the mine itself.
This often means that there will be electrical cords stretched along many areas of the mine. This can cause electrocution hazards, as well as trip and fall risks. You should always have policies in place about how and when extension and other electrical cords should be used so people are aware of them and can take the proper electrical safety precautions.
Tip #7 – Fire Safety
Another major safety issue with mining is that of fires. Fires can come from a variety of sources at mining sites. For example, there may be natural gas that begins to seep into the mine. The fuel used to power specific machinery could ignite too. There are many other potential sources for fire, so you need to do all you can to minimize this risk.
Due to the nature of this type of workplace, you may not be able to have a traditional fire suppression system installed, which makes it even more important to take fire safety seriously. Watching out for fire hazards at all times is a key component of the overall mining health and safety program.
Tip #8 – Cave-Ins or Collapses
When working in or around mines there are two primary things to be concerned about. The first is a cave-in. This occurs when rocks or other debris become unstable and fall into the mine. When this occurs miners can get crushed by the debris, or trapped deep within the mine.
The other issue, which can be directly related, is a collapse. This occurs when the ground around the mine is not properly supported, and it collapses in. This can be especially dangerous when driving heavy equipment over areas where there are tunnels deep below.
Tip #9 – Vehicle Hazards
Most mining sites will have many different vehicles that are used throughout the area. This could be cement trucks, cranes, tractors or any number of other things. These large vehicles often don’t have the best visibility, which can make it very dangerous for those working around them.
Taking the time to identify specific areas where these vehicles should be traveling, and making sure that people don’t walk in those areas, can help to keep people safe. A well planned out vehicle traffic area should be an essential component of any mining health and safety strategy.
Tip #10 – Lifting Hazards
Miners are well known for being big, strong individuals who work in some of the most rugged areas on earth. While this is necessary in many situations, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have to take precautions when lifting heavy objects.
Those working in mines should know how to properly lift things to avoid leg and back injuries, and how to determine when it is best to ask for help or get some type of lifting equipment to help. Related to this, miners need to know how to carry these items safely so they don’t trip and fall or run into other people in the area.
Making Mining Health & Safety a Priority
There are many other things you can do to help improve mining health and safety at the workplace. These ten tips are a great place to start, but you should always be looking for new ways to keep people safe while on the job site. With some hard work and participation by management and employees, mining accidents and injuries can continue to become less and less common every year.