Mining across the globe is under close scrutiny with regards to standards of safety. This has never been brought more under the spotlight than with the “2010 Chilean Mining Accident”. This well documented rescue effort highlighted the importance of cooperation between government, mining authorities, and medical response and rescue teams.
Most important in any mining operation is the protection of human life. It is however also not disputed that lives lost has a significant impact on the financial sustainability of a mine and even the ability to continue with mining operations.
This is why emergency medical response is such an important component in mining safety. Even with the best training and safety standards in place mining accidents will still occur. Underground tremors and other forces of nature can be devastating for those working 4,000m below ground. In the unfortunate event of these and other accidents it is of the utmost importance that miners will be able to receive the best possible treatment in the golden hour after the accident.
On the Mining Safety website we have also shared information on Emergency Medical Response and Mining Safety
and would like to add to this discussion by sharing some information on the equipment required by paramedics for emergency medical response at our mines.
We decided to raise a few questions with ER24, one of the most professional emergency medical response providers assisting mines across Africa in Botswana, Zambia, South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Democratic Republic Congo and Liberia.
We wanted to focus on the analysis of emergency medical equipment required by the paramedics and the importance of these equiptment.
When ER24 is involved in the analysis of emergency medical response requirements at the Mines – does this also include deciding on the equipment required?
It is extremely important to analyse which equipment will be required on a specific site. Certain sites require paramedics to assist underground where others might only have a requirement towards a primary health care clinic.
Once a risk assessment is completed for the client, the Site Based Medical Services Manager – a Medical Doctor, will propose certain equipment in order to assist with emergency fast and efficiently. In certain cases the client provides the equipment on site. Should this be the case, the Site Based Team will evaluate the equipment to ensure that it is usable and in good order.
Who is responsible for the providing or availability of equipment? Does ER24 provide the equipment or does the mine have to provide for this?
As mentioned above, some clients prefer to supply their own equipment. However, ER24 also provides equipment related to the client’s needs. We have accredited suppliers that supply us with approved quality equipment. It is also important to understand which equipment will be used in order to ensure that the paramedic on site is trained in the specific item.
Does this requirement of the equipment required differ from mine to mine?
Yes, it depends on what type of mine it is. Certain mines may require the paramedics to be part of their proto team or have full control over the proto team. It also depends on the location of the mine and how soon the patient can be evacuated from the site.
Should there be a significant time delay before a patient can be evacuated; the paramedics will require extra equipment to assist with the patient’s basic life functions.
Does the nature of the mining activity – open pit, underground etc play a meaningful role in the decision of which equipment is required?
In most circumstances equipment are standard, but extra equipment based on the risk analysis might be required. The equipment will also be adjusted depending on the role the paramedic needs to play on the site.
Will the location of a mine and especially the distance from the nearest hospital play a role in the equipment needed on site?
As mentioned above the distance plays a big role in evacuating a patient as soon as possible. For example in a situation where a local ER24 ambulance can on site within a few minutes the patient can be evacuated to an appropriate facility without necessarily invasive equipment.
However, in certain areas where a patient needs to be evacuated with fixed wing or rotor wing, the paramedic might require ventilators as well as infusion pumps etc, until the medevac arrives.
What are the most important emergency medical equipment needed – if you could list approximately the 10 most important pieces/ types of equipment…?
The basic life support equipment are always the first prize as this saves lives. The paramedic needs equipment that can assist the patient in airway and breathing such as, oxygen, disposable oxygen masks, ventilators, endotracheal tubes, etc.
Circulation must also be maintained and a paramedic requires disposable stock to stop bleeding, CPR equipment, defibrillator, etc.
Obviously it depends on the paramedics protocol, but medical drugs ranging from basic life support oxygen up to advanced life support morphine may be required on site.
Do paramedics at the mining premises undergo regular training on medical response equipment?
Certain clients involve the paramedics in their training. It is always advised that the paramedics undergo training specifically relating to the site as each site might be different. Should a client require a paramedic to be qualified in a certain technique etc, the ER24 Training Academy can arrange an accredited institution to provide this training.
Are there specific protocols with regards to maintenance and replacement of equipment?
All paramedics must be registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa and in certain cases the local Health Department. There are clear guidelines and protocols set out on how a paramedic should act.
Each piece of equipment has its own guidelines which indicate when a specific piece of equipment should be services or calibrated. We keep all these certificates and records to ensure that we minimise the risk of the risk of mechanical failure.
What do a mining company have to do should they which to benefit from the expertise by ER24?
A mining company can contact our Site Based Medical Services department on firstname.lastname@example.org or contact +27 11 803 7707 and consult with Walter Egger.
In case of an emergency in South Africa, anyone can contact ER24 on 084 124.
For emergency evacuations from abroad, you can contact the ER24 Flight Services on +27 10 205 3052