Health and safety in the mining industry have always been an important aspect of operations. In these Covid times, health became probably the most discussed topic in our societies globally. The resulting disruptions of economic activities triggered talks, strategies and concrete actions on how to strike a balance between the safety needs of the population and the well-being of economic life. This balance is, and always was, at the centre of mining operations – the health and safety concerns of miners and the return on investment for operators.
Safety standards vary greatly across the globe. The highest standards being in Europe, North America and Australia, in stark contrast to some parts of Africa or Asia where mines lack the most fundamental safety infrastructure and procedures.
To improve safety and working conditions, advanced safety standards have been made mandatory with the help of the Mine Safety and Health Acts. The International Labor Organization ILO, the International Organization for Standardization ISO and the OHSAS add to the breadth of international health and safety regulations for the mining industry.
Health standards include preventive measures (e.g., the black lung program), regular health checks and the mandatory usage of protective devices (e.g., respiratory masks). They also regulate the usage of materials and tools within the mine, approval requirements Underground mining for explosives, hydraulic fluids, and electric lamps, communication systems, dust and methane detectors, and vehicles. In addition,
safety regulations also describe the necessary training of miners and mine rescue teams in safety-related matters.
Research in the industry showed, that rules and regulations are well intended, but not always helpful. Management and regulators
should not produce more rules and descriptive safety plans as they won’t resonate with the workforce. Instead, fewer rules, but of higher quality create a better understanding among miners. The Swedish
mining industry followed this approach in the early years of 2000 and was focused on risk management.