Risks of Mining Machinery Mining operators have the power to prevent serious injuries by implementing adequate guarding of all types of machinery and plant that operates within the mining environment. Because the hazards associated with plant will vary according to the specific machinery being used and the unique working environment, it is important to adopt a risk management approach that has been tailored for the unique demands of your mine operation.

Here is a guideline to follow as you develop a risk management approach in terms of machinery and plant in mining environments.

Risk Management Consultation

The first important step to eliminate or reduce the risks of machine related injury is to establish a clear channel of communication between all parties involved in operations. Consultation between employers and workers, as well as safety and health consultants, speeds up the process of identifying hazards surrounding machinery and aids in development of preventative measures.

Section 19(1)(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (Australia) places the burden on the employer to “consult and cooperate with safety and health representatives, if any, and other employees at the workplace, regarding occupational safety and health at the workplace”. To complement the employer’s duty, workers are required to cooperate with their employer on matters of safety and health.

Risk Management Process

risk management process for mining safety

Regulation 3.1 of the Occupation Safety and Health Act outlines the required process that employers are to undertake in risk management. The process involves identifying hazards, assessing the risk of injury or harm arising from each hazard that has been identified, and mitigating the risks by implementing control measures. The results of these three steps are to be assessed through a process of continual monitoring and review that establishes the success of the control measures that were put in place, and whether these measures have introduced any new hazards.

Hazard Identification

  • The first step in identifying the risks associated with machinery is to identify and list each item of plant in your workplace.
  • Danger zones can now be determined by inspecting each piece of machinery in terms of the parts, processes and operating procedures. Another helpful way of determining risks associated with a piece is by examining company records and manufacturers’ manuals to see if they reveal any hazards.
  • The next step is to record the hazards identified and to develop checklists and an inspection worksheet based on the associate risks.

Assessment of Risks

This step involves looking at the chance of a specific hazard occurring as well as the likely injury or harm resulting from such an incident. The purpose of assessing the various risks in the mining environment is to enable the prioritizing of hazards according to risk and extent of injuries occurring, which ensures that the highest risks receive most urgent attention.

The questions that should be asked in this step are:

  • Where, which and what number of workers are likely to be at risk of sustaining injury or harm?
  • How often is this likely to occur?
  • What is the potential severity of related injuries?

Mitigation of Safety Risks

Once all identified hazards have been rated according to these questions, a prioritised list of hazards requiring action can be developed and implemented. In implementation of mitigating procedures, there is a recommended order in which to implement control measures, starting with the most effective and moving towards the least effective strategies. This ‘hierarchy of control’ looks as follows:

  • Elimination
  • Substitution
  • Isolation
  • Engineering controls
  • Administrative controls (e.g. work practices that reduce risks by providing training and instruction)
  • Personal protective clothing and equipment. While protective gear might be essential for certain work procedures, it should be the last resort in controlling risks.

Continual Risk Management in Mining Operations

Because of the constantly changing nature of mining environment, the possibility of the introduction of new hazards to the workplace must be taken into account and assessed. Especially in situations where new machinery or plant has been introduced, modifications have been made to existing plant or machinery or to systems of work, the risk management process should be reinitiated with urgency and thoroughness. Throughout the process of risk management workers as well as safety and health representatives must be consulted, as they are most likely to know about the risks associated with their work.

To read more about mine safety systems that mitigates the risk of injury and harm associated with lost persons in underground mining, download our free guide to mine safety here:

Underground Mine Safety