Mining dangers are significant, but the rewards of digging into the earth to uncover treasures of gems, metals, minerals, and stones outweigh the costs. Many health and safety risks are involved in the in-ground work of mining and quarries. However, the top five include injuries from moving vehicles, physical handling injuries, falls, rock slides, and the effects of long-term exposure to mining. Awareness and prevention is the best way to help reduce injuries and fatalities. In addition, learning more about the history of mining has allowed safety practices to improve and led to better safety regulations.
History of Mining
Mining evidence can be found pre-dating recorded history. For example, it was used to harvest materials to make items like arrowheads. Later, the California Gold Rush in 1848 brought many new miners into California, seeking their fortunes and sometimes their lives. The original tools consisted of a pickaxe and hammer, with the occasional use of dynamite to dig deeper and faster.
Coal mining hazards included working in conditions with little access to breathable air. Luckily, advancements in mining technologies have reduced the physical risk to a miner. For example, machines are used to extract ores and minerals efficiently.
What Are the Top 5 Risks in the Mining Industry?
Gone are the days of bringing a canary into the mine with you and hoping the animal survives. Advancements in technology have been able to assess mining risks before they happen. However, the dangers of mining persist. The mining hazards of the past may include bad air, tunnel collapse, and labor-intensive work. Today, the risks to health and safety in mining have improved, but troubles remain.
Any moving machinery has the potential to malfunction and cause harm. Mining vehicles like trucks, tractors, and lifting equipment are the top causes of mining accidents. Unfortunately, poor maintenance, aged equipment, and mechanical and human error can cause an injury. Small, poorly maintained roads and insufficient restraints factor into the injuries.
Preventing these risks is quite simple. However, time, money, and complacency impact the likelihood of preventing these risks. First, roads should be sturdy and wide enough for the traffic they will receive, devoid of potholes and dangerous curves. Secondly, employees need proper training in the use of vehicles and restraints. Lastly, maintenance inspections must be scheduled frequently. And equipment must be replaced to maintain vital working equipment.
Even in office settings, proper lifting and moving techniques are essential. The mishandling of materials or equipment can create injuries like back sprains, broken bones, loss of limbs, and even loss of life. In addition, manual shoveling, moving stones, and heavy operating equipment can tax the musculoskeletal system with time and improper technique.
Employees must be vigilant to prevent these injuries. That includes using proper moving and posture techniques. For example, using mechanical lifts and increasing training and safety supervision can reduce the injuries sustained from handling the materials by hand.
Falls are a significant safety factor for miners and machines. The miners have slip-and-fall type injuries, and mining adds to the additional threat of falling from a greater height. Sadly, falls from platforms cause severe injuries and even death. Additionally, devices falling over edges and off platforms pose a greater risk to the occupant and the workers below. Miners also fall when leaning over railings to view the work below.
Prevention is dependent on the degree of construction on the work site. For example, are there platforms, railing, handrails, kickboards, and adequate anchoring? Miners working at heights need anchors with a harness at all times. Machines must be anchored, and weight limits adhered to on platforms. Slips are reduced by increasing attentiveness, reducing clutter, oil and water spills, and using slip-resistant footwear.
Mining hazards have always included falling rock and debris from unstable areas. However, many factors can cause stones to become loose and begin to fall. For example, rainstorms can create a sudden rock slide, and blasting in or near the area loosens rock. Vehicle vibration can destabilize rock, and poor mining design can lead to unforgivable consequences.
Proper planning, maintenance, and adherence to regulations can help keep the mines stable. Proper rock face cleaning, regular hot spot identification, and following the mining plan will reduce the risks. Ensuring ample wall shoring and eradicating hazards before miners begin work is imperative.
Risks of working at a mine include injury from long-term exposure to vibrations, noise, and dust. Vibrations from using hand-held machinery frequently can cause nerve damage in the hands and arms. Additionally, vibrations that jar the entire body can cause joint and back damage. Long-term exposure to loud noise, like machinery, can cause hearing loss. Respiratory illnesses plague miners from the minuscule dust particles mining produces.
The only prevention for vibration injuries from hand-held tools is to find the right tool with the lowest vibration level for the job. The tool that can achieve the objective fastest, with safe results, and with a low vibration level will reduce the vibration damage. In addition, machines need updating with vibration-reducing elements for occupants and to reduce external vibration.
Noise is reduced by insulation or coverings, using different materials, creating a sound-reduction surround, or using earplugs and mufflers. Reducing the impact of dust on miners includes wetting materials, de-dusting miners to remove dust, and using proper PPE to reduce the intake of dust particles.
Training Contributes to Safe Practices
Well-trained employees are the most significant contributor to mining safety. Miners can become accustomed to their work and reduce their vigilance over safety devices, increasing their risk. Creating a routine to ensure safety compliance before working significantly reduces the hazards of mining.
Do OSHA Regulations Apply to Mines?
Yes. OSHA requires new and experienced miners to complete specialized health, safety, and emergency training. However, federal laws have held mining operators responsible for the health and safety of their miners since 1977.
GoCanvas Has the Tools To Help
Even though the dangers of mining have been reduced over the past few decades, the potential for injury remains wherever material digging and moving occurs. However, OSHA training, safety measures, increased technology, and attention to detail can help prevent most injuries. GoCanvas can help you collect data, analyze it, and create better and safer working environments for your miners. Use technology to your advantage by allowing the GoCanvas app to:
- Create work orders
- Log repair requests
- Log incident reports
- Audit checklists
- Log equipment inspections
- Schedule maintenance
- And more!
Contact GoCanvas to see how we can help increase your revenue while decreasing miners’ injuries.
Brief History of Mining & Advancement of Mining Technology | General Kinematics