Mining is a term which covers a wide range of services such as underground or open cut mining, dredging, quarrying, the operation of wells or evaporation pans and recovery from ore dumps or tailings. Natural gas absorption, purifying and similar treatment plants are also included in this division.
The main sectors of mining include: Metal Ore Mining, Oil and Gas Extraction, Coal Mining, Other Mining and Services to Mining.
According to the Australian Safety and Compensation Council the most common causes of compensated injury and disease in the Mining industry are:
- muscular stress (due to manual handling or repetitive movement)
- falls and trips
- being hit by a moving object
With a fatality rate double the national average and an injury rate that is 50 per cent higher, mining is a dangerous industry. The causes of this extraordinary injury rate are equally as remarkable: machinery and plant accounted for 75 per cent and two in every three mining injuries were put down to bad design. Mining accidents are definitely a cause for concern in Australia due to its natural resources boom as it is an extremely dangerous field to be working in. All measures and precautions must be taken to ensure safe operating procedures.
The four most common hazards in the mining industry include;
- manual handling (lifting, repetition, vibration and awkward positions)
- slips and trips
- falls from heights
- being hit by a moving object (traffic, plant)
A manual task is defined as any activity requiring a person to use their musculoskeletal system in performing their work. This can include the use of force for lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling, carrying and otherwise moving holding or restraining any person, animal or item.
Hazardous manual handling involves:
- repetitive or sustained application of force.
- repetitive or sustained awkward postures or movements.
- manual handling of people or animals.
- exposure to sustained vibration.
- manual handling of unstable loads that are difficult to grasp or hold.
- application of high force
Ways to reduce the risk
Most manual handling injuries can be prevented by education, training, and supervision. Safe work procedures should be prepared by employers with the help of employees to care for the special needs of young and inexperienced workers in particular. It is the employer’s responsibility, as far as possible, to provide a safe working environment, which includes:
- safe plant and equipment;
- safe protective equipment;
- manual handling aids if necessary; and
- rest or exercise breaks during tiring or repetitive tasks.
Safe work procedures
It is the employer’s responsibility to provide the employee with safe work procedures, and with education, training and supervision for manual handling tasks. Each manual handling job or task should have its own safe procedure. Some safe procedure steps include planning the task before work begins, training employees in the skills required and the potential hazards, clearing the area to avoid bumping or tripping over things and wearing suitable clothing.
Safe work procedures should reduce lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, lowering, throwing, holding, or tasks requiring the use of force. They should:
- remove unnecessary tasks
- prevent double handling
- prevent heavy carrying
- provide rest breaks during heavy or repetitive work
- provide such mechanical aids as trolleys, hoists, levers, adjustable height workbenches and seating, hooks and jacks, tools and equipment kept within easy reach.
Dos and Don’ts
- Bend the knees, but not beyond a right angle.
- Keep the back straight, but not vertical.
- Lift using the strong thigh and calf muscles.
- Keep the centre of gravity of load and body in line with the feet.
- While carrying, clasp the load close to the body.
- Do not turn the body or head while lifting. Lift, and then pivot on feet.
- Do not jerk or snatch. Slowly accelerate the load.
- Do not use the weak back muscles to lift.
Approximately 54% of Australian mining organisations currently employ 12 hour shift schedules. This type of schedule can result in fatigue, which increases the risks of accidents occurring. Stress, manual handling tasks, poor lighting and inadequate breaks can also dramatically increase the risk of fatigue. Fatigue is caused by physical or mental exertion or insufficient sleep that results in a markedly reduced performance or reduced ability to carry out a task.
High risk fatigue periods
High risk fatigue periods for Mining usually occur if:
- you are new to shift work conditions
- due to a change of roster
- at the end of a shift or end of a roster period and
- commuting to and from work.
Work related causes
Work-related causes result from:
- roster design, e.g. too many consecutive night shifts;
- aspects of the tasks being undertaken, e.g. greater workload within standard shifts;
- features of the working environment, e.g. noise or temperature extremes.
Non-work related causes
Causes of non work-related fatigue include:
- sleep disruption due to family members
- strenuous activities outside work, such as second jobs or high levels of physical activity
- sleep disorders
- inappropriate use of alcohol, prescription and illegal drugs
- stress associated with financial difficulties or domestic responsibilities.
After having been awake for 17 hours straight a persons driving ability is equal to that of a person with a 0.05 blood alcohol level. Being awake for 24 hours is equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.1, double the legal limit.
Injuries / Symptoms of fatigue
– anxiety, irritability, depression and mood disturbances
– slowed reaction times
– reduced attention/motivation
– poorer communication
– increased risk taking behaviour and accidents
– heart disease
– stomach upsets
– decreased short term memory
Basic principles of fatigue management
A number of basic principles apply when developing a fatigue management system. The following are detailed in the code of practice and should be considered as the basis for most systems.
- Give an employee at least 24 hours notice to prepare for a working time period of 14 hours or more.
- Minimise irregular or unfamiliar work rosters.
- Operate flexible schedules to allow for Short Break Time.
- Develop a written policy on fitness for duty in consultation with employees and unions.
- Require regular assessment of an employee’s health by a suitably qualified medical practitioner.
- Ensure that the medical assessment includes consideration of sleep disorders and other fatigue related conditions.
- Identify health problems that affect the ability to work safely, e.g. Diabetes.
- Provide appropriate employee assistance programs if necessary and practicable.
- Provide employees with information and assistance to promote management of their health.
- Ensure employees are counselled regarding off shift activities, i.e. to avoid excessive drinking, fatty foods and moonlighting. Exercise is a good idea.
Other hazards in the mining industry include:
|Hot/ Cold Environments||Fatigue||Confined Spaces|
|Hazardous Substances||Manual Handling|
The Mining and Quarrying Occupational Health and Safety Committee
(MAQOHSC) is a tripartite body established under the SA Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act, 1986
Wellman Occupational Health