| Written by Mark Buzinkay

Mining is a risky business: Being underground doesn't feel natural as it is a harsh environment for humans. Safety is a top priority for mining operations because the areas feature extremes in temperatures, air quality, and impacts. To improve mine safety, we put together five essential safety tips.
Safe Mining Practices

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1. Assess hazards

Assessing the hazards is maybe the most critical step to mitigate safety risks. Putting together a plan is a good starting point. Such a plan indicates:

  • the nature of the principal mining hazard
  • how it relates to other threats at the mine
  • the analysis methods used in identifying the mining hazards
  • a record of the risk assessment conducted concerning the mining hazards
  • a description of all control measures to be implemented to manage risks to health and safety associated with the principal mining hazards
  • a description of the arrangements in place for providing to workers the information, training and instruction required about the main mining hazard

Insights from a plan like this influence drilling design and blasting operations. Careful investigation of the rock characteristics, stresses and probable aftermath can decrease the unknowns and improve the sequence of events.

Using the right software makes it possible to display the various outcomes of a proposed plan. Digital twins are an ideal way to explore a variety of scenarios.

2. Maintain a culture of safety

A (miner) safety culture is the fundamental basis for a safe work environment. Generally, safety culture is viewed as an organisation's shared perceptions, beliefs, values, and attitudes that combine to create a commitment to safety and an effort to minimise harm.

A strong safety culture ensures that high standards are set for all safety processes. In addition, implementing a positive safety culture promotes a sense of commitment to safety and helps encourage employee participation and accountability in workplace safety.

Generating a positive perspective on safety standards can make checklists and protocol a necessity in workers' eyes rather than an extra step. In addition, encouraging feedback from workers on areas for improvement can create a better setting.

3. Wear Personal Protective Gear

Personal protective equipment, commonly referred to as "PPE", is equipment worn to minimise exposure to various hazards. Examples of PPE in mining include gloves, steel-toed footwear and eye protection, protective hearing devices (earplugs, muffs), hard hats, respirators and full bodysuits.

Hard hats are essential to keep workers safe to protect them from severe injuries: rockfall is a common cause of incidents. It is mandatory to put on your equipment before entering hazardous zones. Every mine should define the PPE that is required for the activity. Replace defective clothing immediately.

Further reading: Mine Safety - Why digital management?


4. Keep your equipment in perfect shape

Neglected equipment will deteriorate quickly in harsh environments like a mine. Malfunctioning can lead to loss of control or open up dangers. Follow recommended maintenance from the manual, keep used equipment clean and store it properly after use.

One important rule is to inspect equipment regularly, replace essential parts when necessary and ensure regular lubrication to restore them to their former quality. Proper upkeep can increase equipment life, posing less danger to miners.

cc_thumbnail_25. Improve visibility

In underground operations, visibility is always an issue. Dark pathways and work areas can jeopardise you because it's more likely for you to make mistakes with low visibility. Eliminating intersections whenever possible, so drivers only have to look one way, is a good start to avoid hazards. If needed, implementing intersection protocols is a good idea, like following a four-way stop rule where the person on the right always goes first or where an operator with a full load always has the right of way.

In general, underground illumination can solve the problem. Ensure personal lighting devices and stationary lamps can withstand all weather conditions. This can offer constant light sources and keep mining crews from unexpected blackouts. In addition, working headlights on machinery and mobile equipment can alert drivers to nearby personnel, preventing hazardous collisions.

When it comes to pre-and post-blasting procedures, visibility is essential. You don't want anyone close to an explosion or being exposed to gases. Therefore, visibility of where your workforce is vital for safe mining operations: visibility is best achieved by an automated miner tracking system.

Safety Culture and Successful Mining Whitepaper