Mineworkers require specific Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to protect the entire body from any harm or injury in the mining environment. Determining what this PPE should be depends on a proper risk assessment of the specific application. Here North Safety Products Africa Steelpoort Branch Manager Michael Malan elaborates on the different types of PPE that is required.
The consequences of not having proper PPE may lead to injuries, loss of a limb or part of a limb, a permanent physical defect, or even a fatality, Malan cautions. An added impact is increased downtime, which translates into reduced profits and greater overheads.
North Safety Products Africa supplies specific PPE to meet the varied needs of different sectors of the mining environment, in full compliance with all safety regulations and legal requirements as per the requisite risk assessment.
Head and face protection
This comprises of a hard hat, safety glasses, ear plugs and half-face or full-face masks. When working on the surface, a hard hat with a chin strap must be worn to ensure optimal protection of the head area. The hard hat inner must be adjustable to ensure a correct fit. The frame or rim of the hard hat is aimed at deflecting falling objects. Hard hats must comply with the relevant SABS and EN specifications.
Underground mineworkers must wear hard hats approved by the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), as indicated by a stamp on the inside of the hard hat. Moreover, hard hats must have a cap-lamp mounting bracket at the front for a light source to ensure visibility underground.
To protect the eyes, safety glasses or goggles should be worn, preferably with anti-fog and anti-scratch properties, so they do not have to be removed and cleaned within the work area, thus minimising risk and downtime. In addition, they should have a seal around the eye area to prevent the ingress of dust and sand.
A Signal-To-Noise Ratio (SNR) test should be conducted at every area of a mine to determine the decibel level, which will indicate what type of ear plugs should be worn. This noise assessment must also comply with Section 43 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1993.
Reusable ear plugs are recommended, in order to counter perspiration and increase mineworker comfort levels during the day. These can simply be cleaned with soap and water, and used for three to four months. Custom-moulded ear plugs are highly recommended for complete hearing protection.
A face mask is essential when working in environments containing potentially hazardous gases, many of which are odourless and tasteless. A half-face mask protects miners from breathing in dangerous gases underground, depending on the gas levels.
A full-face mask protects the eyes and skin, in addition to a breathing apparatus to facilitate breathing, preventing hazardous gases from entering the mask by means of replaceable cartridges. These cartridges must be replaced immediately when the air within the mask is contaminated with chemicals and/gases, which may affect breathing.
Upper body, neck and arm protection
A two-piece 100% cotton Conti Suit is required to be worn. Recommended safety indicators include reflective stripes on the arms and legs, a cross at the back, and two reflective stripes above the pocket on the chest. These safety indicators must be reflective or visible in low-light or dark areas.
A range of gloves are available for different applications. The Ninja range from North Safety Products Africa is the standard range, manufactured in accordance with all DMR requirements. This trusted brand of safety gloves features different coatings for added flexibility.
The lightweight Cut Level 5 Ninja Force gloves protect engineers and workers involved in mechanical operations, affording protection against penetration from sharp objects. These gloves feature a synthetic fibre or fiberglass shell, with a grey polyurethane coating, for up to 20 times better cut resistance, as well as abrasion, tear and puncture resistance, for optimal protection.
Feet and leg protection
The standard footwear for optimal foot and leg protection are heavy-duty boots. Knee-high boots with an anti-slip polyurethane surface on the sole and a metaguard on top are highly recommended, together with steel-cap toes and an anti-static mid-sole and ankle guards. For added protection, knee pads should also be worn when working underground.
Malan concludes that North Safety Products Africa is passionate about the safety of its clients and the people working in dangerous mining and industrial environments. “We meet the ever-changing and demanding needs of the PPE industry through our extensive range of safety products, from entry-level to top-of-the-range clothing and equipment.
“Not only do our products give peace of mind that all PPE safety requirements and regulations are being adhered to at all times, but we also strive to ensure that the industry remains up-to-date with the latest technology and developments,” Malan concludes.