mine safety regulationsIn 2008 The Department of Minerals and Energy released a Mine Safety audit report describing the high number of injuries and fatalities in South African mines at that point. This was a result of an order by former President Thabo Mbeki to determine the level of compliance with health and safety after an incident in which 3200 workers were trapped underground for 42 hours in October 2007.

Consequentially the Mine Health and Safety Regulations was developed. In 2007 the total fatality figure in South Africa amounted to 221 legal mineworkers. In 2010, according to figures released by the Department of Mineral Resources, 128 people were killed in mines in South Africa.

In 2014 84 deaths were recorded, the lowest ever in the history of mining in South Africa. Although the laying off of a large amount of mine workers in South Africa contribute towards this positive statistic, the South African mines are definitely taking up the mantle of responsibility to do what they can in terms of compliance to Mine Safety Regulations.

Benefits of Compliance

But why is it critical for a mine to comply? Compliance with the Mine Safety Regulations benefits the worker, but it also benefits the mine. When a mining accident occurs, a victim leaves behind family members who had depended on this worker as a breadwinner providing for their daily living. But the company also suffers. Typically it experiences production losses due to routine shutdowns ordered by government for investigations, or work stoppages by union members who stop work for a day to mark the death of colleagues.

How can a Mine Improve its Safety?

So, in a nutshell, what can a mine do to improve its safety? The Mine Health and Safety Act 1996, amended in 2008, lays out in detail what needs to be done. This includes matters such as identifying hazards, and eliminating, controlling, and minimizing risks relating to health and safety. It also includes creating a culture of health and safety amongst workers as well as maintaining a high standard of training in health and safety. Over the last decade various products have been developed that contribute to better safety measures on mines.

Software applications

Software developers have designed numerous applications that help mine operators and their employees create and sustain a safe and productive mining environment with the aid of mine planning and geology software.

1. Environmental Management

A powerful environmental database application contains the various local and national regulations with which a mine operator must comply. It can relate the mine operator to key licensing requirements and events.

2. Risk Management

Effective risk management within the mining arena employs software applications built around ISO 31000 risk management and its associated risk assessment framework. Both real and potential risks can be identified, assessed, tracked and mitigated at all working levels in real-time.

3. Health and Safety

Healthy employees are vital to mining safety and productivity. A database application can record an employee’s health history, safety training, sick leave usage, reports injury management, workers’ compensation claims and physical rehabilitation status.

4. Equipment Management

An effective equipment management application ensures maintenance schedules are in place and followed.

Lost Persons Detection system

Profitek’s Minelert has numerous successful implementations of the LPD system in the mining industry with proven reference sites. It provides a proximity (zoning) solution and is based on 2.45GHz technology that has been proven in search and rescue operations and many underground tunnel applications throughout the world.

Asset Location Monitoring

Minelert’s Asset Location Monitoring (ALM) solution enables monitoring of all vehicles, loco’s, material cars and any other assets throughout the mining operation. This increases productivity and enables a safer working environment for workers.

Summary

According to the Chamber of Mines, in the past decade, “fatalities have been cut, safety has been improved, exposure to dust and noise reduced, tuberculosis (TB) infection rates reduced, more effective TB/HIV infection control and treatment programmes have been implemented, and best practice to improve health and safety outcomes has been adopted.”

Much has been done to improve safety on mines. But it can never be enough. Every step towards better implementation of Mine Safety Regulations could save a life, and save a family.

Underground Mine Safety