The mining industry has developed machine safety programs with interventions and control technologies to reduce injuries to personnel working near machinery and mobile equipment.
Machine safety programs attempt to understand the machine system requirements and specifications and to address the human interface issues involving the operation and maintenance of the equipment.
Mining companies are also steadily introducing their preferred safety systems across global operations. Because of the individual nature of mines, a one-size-fits-all solution is difficult, so some form of harmonized corporate standards is more likely than product-specific mandates.
In this section we would like to discuss the dangers in operating heavy machinery and share advice to enhance the safety of those mineworkers operating machinery.
Accidents with Mining Machinery
Researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in the US studied mining accidents that involved workers entangled in, struck by, or injured in contact with machinery or equipment in motion. Machine-related accidents account for many of the severe accidents in the mining industry.
Powered haulage and machinery accidents accounted for 47% of all mining fatalities and 22% of all non-fatal days lost injuries in the mining industry from 2004 to 2008.
Machinery and Mining Operations
What types of machinery are operating on our mining premises?
- Heavy machinery needed in mining for exploration and development, to remove and stockpile overburden, to break and remove rocks of various hardness and toughness, to process the ore and for reclamation efforts after the mine is closed.
- Bulldozers, drills, explosives and trucks are all necessary for excavating the land. In the case of placer mining, unconsolidated gravel, or alluvium, is fed into machinery consisting of a hopper and a shaking screen or trommel which frees the desired minerals from the waste gravel. The minerals are then concentrated using sluices or jigs.
- Large drills are used to sink shafts, excavate stopes and obtain samples for analysis.
- Trams are used to transport miners, minerals and waste.
- Lifts carry miners into and out of mines, as well as moving rock and ore out, and machinery in and out of underground mines.
- Huge trucks, shovels and cranes are employed in surface mining to move large quantities of overburden and ore.
- Processing plants can utilize large crushers, mills, reactors, roasters and other equipment to consolidate the mineral-rich material and extract the desired compounds and metals from the ore.
- Conveyors, rock bolting machines, milling machines and haulage equipment such as trucks and loaders.
What are the contributing factors to accidents with machinery?
- Large, powerful moving machinery processing thousands of tons of ore and rock in poorly lighted and confined work areas in underground mines, and in adverse weather conditions in surface operations, contribute to the hazardous nature of mining.
- Improper operation of the machine and maintenance and repair.
- Poor visibility near mining equipment, machinery entanglements, slipping and tripping, operator error, and hazards associated with equipment maintenance.
- Ineffective safeguarding of workers near machinery through the required mechanical guarding around moving components, lockout/tag out of machine power during maintenance and backup alarms for mobile equipment.
- Poor proximity detection
- Mining machinery and haul trucks have extensive operator blind spots.
- Haul roads are unsealed and need constant maintenance, blind corners are common, and intersections change frequently.
- 24-Hour working and driver fatigue contribute to transportation accidents.
Typical Mechanical hazards include the following
Steps to enhance Safety with Machinery
To decrease accidents researchers recommend additional efforts in the development of new control technologies, training materials and dissemination of information on best practices.
Driver adherence, situational awareness, and proximity detection are all paths to collision avoidance.
We would like to share advice on the best practice developed in our mines over a number of years.