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Common Risks Overlooked in Mining Operations

The mining industry has a reputation for being a battlefield. It encompasses 'survival of the fittest' working conditions, futuristic machinery ...

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|Jan 30|magazine10 min read

The mining industry has a reputation for being a battlefield. It encompasses 'survival of the fittest' working conditions, futuristic machinery ready to end your life at any minute and unforeseeable gases at every turn. It’s no wonder why the industry holds one of the highest fatality rates among occupations.

The key to staying safe (and alive) is learning the risks associated with mining. Although shafts and tunnels can cave in or flood and ventilation can fail, these are the most common risks overlooked in mining operations.

Noise

Believe it or not, noise is one of the most common errors miners forget to take into consideration when preparing for work. Mine sites, especially underground, are filled with constant and blaring drilling and heavy machinery sounds, which can lead to hearing impairment.

To avoid potential hearing damage, companies should evaluate working conditions and noise exposure through risk assessments. Proper use of personal hearing protection is vital and necessary for health and safety purposes.

UV Exposure

Open-pit mining requires long hours outdoors and significant exposure to sunlight. The result is an increase for overexposure to UV (ultraviolet) radiation, which can lead to dehydration, headaches, nausea, melanomas, and worse, skin cancer.

To combat the sunny rays of death, miners should continually find the most effective way of reducing exposure using a combination of protection methods. These include: appropriate protective clothing, constant application of sunscreen, and options to avoid peak times of UV rays.

Coal dust

The inhalation of coal dust is a serious concern for coal miners. Know in the industry as “miner’s lung” or “black lung”, coal dust has the inherent ability to cause shortness of breath, scarring of lung tissue, and ongoing respiratory issues. Although legal regulations have been enforced, new cases of coal dust still occur among miners.  

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Whole body vibration

If the body is a-rockin, you may have WBV.  

Whole body vibration (WBV) occurs when vibration of any kind is transferred to the body. As you can imagine, this physical hazard frequently takes places in work involving heavy machinery.

“In the mining environment, WBV can be caused either by spending a lot of time sitting on machinery, which is most of the time in mining extraction, or by standing, such as working on jumbo operators. Some forms of vibration are ok, but they become dangerous when they involve uneven surfaces, vehicle activity such as ripping versus pushing material in a bulldozer, and engine vibrations,” says Megan Clark, mining medicine researcher.

According to Clark, symptoms include: vision impairment, musculoskeletal disorders, reproductive damage in females, and cardiovascular changes.

Chemical hazards

Exposure to harmful chemicals is just a typical day in the neighborhood for miners. To prevent chemical accidents like burns, respiratory problems and poisoning, mining companies should have a standard operating procedure (SOP) that addresses chemical use and handling, disposal, and personal protective equipment. Another important factor in minimizing chemical exposure is ventilation.