Over the past century there has been incredible advancement in the area of mine safety. For many generations, working in the mines meant you would be facing a wide range of hazards every day, including the risk of cave-ins, poor ventilation, working with dangerous tools and much more. While there have been many improvements in this area, mining is still a dangerous occupation.
It seems that there are at least a couple cave-ins at mines, where miners are trapped and often killed each year, including the recent explosion and fire in the mine in Turkey. At least 238 people have died, and another 120 are still trapped, and believed by many experts to be dead. It is events like this that remind us just how important it is to take mine safety very seriously.
Whether you’re working in the mines, or you’re responsible for the safety of those who are, it is important to know that there are many different types of hazards to watch out for. The following are some introductions to some of the most common mine related risks, and how to improve safety in these areas.
Whenever working underground in a mine, one of the biggest fears is that there will be a cave-in. Even small cave-ins can leave workers trapped in areas with limited oxygen and no access to food or water. To reduce the likelihood of cave-ins, mining companies need to practice proper ground control. This means taking all necessary precautions to prevent cave-ins. Some important things to consider when looking at ground control include:
- Pillar Design – Designing support pillars so they are placed in the right areas, and provide adequate support, without compromising the mine integrity.
- Roof Supports – In many cases, miners will build up roof support to prevent rocks and loose gravel from caving in. Placing them properly, and giving them sufficient structural support is essential.
- Horizontal Stress Support – Supporting the side walls of mines is also very important as they need to be secure in order to prevent cave-ins.
Fire & Explosion Mine Safety Prevention
In many mining operations there are a variety of different types of machinery used, as well as explosive or flammable products used in the mining. If proper care is not taken, the heat or sparks from the machinery can ignite flammable gas or other explosive materials and cause a fire. Fires or explosions in mining can be extremely dangerous in mines because the heat and smoke are trapped, causing the area to become deadly very quickly. In addition, these types of hazards can damage support structures and cause the mine to become unstable, resulting in a cave-in.
When planning fire or explosion safety, it is necessary to take steps to keep all flammable gasses, liquids and other objects away from any heat source. In addition, its important to have all flammable liquids and gasses properly labeled with GHS labels (like these). These labels can be printed on an industrial label maker (similar to this one) quickly and efficiently. Having an effective fire suppression system in place wherever possible is also critical. Finally, having all the miners know the evacuation routes can also save lives.
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Electrical Mine Safety
Modern mines use a wide range of different machinery in mines. Much of this equipment runs off of electricity, since operating gas engines can be difficult and dangerous in a mine (though it is sometimes necessary). When operating electrical equipment, there are often long cords which run from the machine to an area outside of the mine. If these cords are not kept organized, they can cause some significant hazards.
One risk is that the cords will become damaged due to sharp rocks or people walking on them. Over time, this can cause a fire, or an electrocution risk. Unorganized cords can also be a tripping hazard, which is very dangerous when working in a mine. Organizing all electrical cords properly, and making sure they are easy to see is essential for proper mine safety.
Dust & Fume Control
Working in a mine is a very dirty job, and there is really no way around that. Digging and excavating rocks, dirt and dust will cause people to get quite filthy, very quickly. While this is not a hazard on its own, it does create a big problem. When dust is pushed up into the air, it can be inhaled by people working in the area. This can cause a wide range of health risks both immediately, and over time. In addition, there could be small amounts of gas in the mine or fumes from any machinery in operation.
The dust and other fumes will quickly reduce the air quality, resulting in big risks for those in the area. To minimize any health risks associated with air quality, the mine needs to have adequate ventilation to quickly remove these impurities. Another option is to provide the miners with their own air supply and mask. This will ensure they have safe air to breath, but it can get expensive. Managing these types of risks can be very difficult, but it is also very important.
Emergency Response Preparation
Even with the best possible safety preparation, accidents and injuries will happen. Having an emergency response plan to follow when something happens can help to save lives, and minimize injuries. Most injuries will be from minor accidents where someone in the mine gets a cut or other non-life threatening injury, and needs to be treated. Having someone on-site who can treat minor injuries is a great way to help keep everyone safe. For more serious injuries, rapid transportation to a nearby hospital is necessary.
Knowing how to quickly respond to major accidents, such as explosions or cave-ins, however, is also very important. All mining companies should have a detailed plan of action for each mining site, and make sure everyone is trained in how to properly respond to these types of accidents. Rapid response during these types of accidents can save many lives.
All mining companies and individual miners need to take mine safety very seriously. While there has been a lot of progress over the past few generations of miners, the fact is there is still a long way to go. When miners and mining companies take safety seriously, everyone will be better off.