Mining is widely regarded as one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.
In fact, according to ABC News, up to 60 coal miners in the United States die on the job each year due to cave-ins, explosions, carbon monoxide and methane gas. And these miner fatality numbers are much greater in other countries, such as China, where several thousand have perished within a calendar year. In Australia recently, 14 miners died within a six-month span.
Are miners being properly trained on safety measures before they're deployed into the mines to work? Is there more the industry can do to keep workers safe and thereby save lives? With that said, here's a look at five safety tips every miner must know:
- Safe cables and cords: When working in the mines, large equipment is needed. When it comes to powering conveyors, pumps, loaders, etc., power cords that are not only safe, but effective are necessary. That's where mining cables come into play. They should be weather resistant and purpose-built for the mining industry so they can stand up to the abrasive conditions that the mine presents. Cables that are resistant to abrasion, sunlight, water, chemicals and extreme temperatures are the best bet to staying safe and working efficiently in the mine. Being MSHA (Mine Safety and Health Administration) approved is often a requirement.
- Methane safety: Working underground has the potential to overexpose miners to methane gas, potentially killing them via asphyxiation or by combustion. That's why it's important to test for methane within three hours before every shift and why methane meters must be installed with equipment, loading machines and more. Methane can be a killer, so it's important to take the proper safety measures to minimize exposure as much as possible.
- PPE (Personal Protective Equipment): Breathing safely is everything down in the mine, especially when methane and carbon monoxide gasses are potentially present, not to mention the hazards of inhaling dust that can lead to "miner's lung," or pneumoconiosis. That's why all miners need to be properly fitted and wearing respirators in areas where such gases exist in high concentrations. Miners must also be familiar with self-generating oxygen devices. While respirators are arguably the most crucial piece of PPE in the mine, they're hardly the only piece. Head lamps, eye protectors, visibility vests, hard hats, steel-toed boots, hearing protectors and more are other types of PPE that are recommended or required down in the mine.
- Don't work alone: Miners should never work alone, for their own safety. This is important in dangerous areas that are prone to falling rock or other hazards. Miners should also carry with them a communication device — such as a radio — to stay in touch with workers outside of the mine in the event of an emergency. Communication between the other workers in the mine, as well as the people above on ground level, is crucial.
- Inspect equipment: Heavy machinery and equipment are often used in a mine, and if such equipment were to malfunction while operating, the results could be catastrophic. That's why it's important that employees are trained on any unusual signs and symptoms of a problem. Hence, before any equipment is powered on, it should be given a quick walk-around to inspect for any other signs of trouble. A few minutes of inspection before use could save lots of trouble long term.
About the author:
Russell Zawacki is the Quality and Safety Manager of TPC Wire & Cable Corp. in Macedonia, OH. TPC Wire & Cable is a leading wire and cable manufacturer that supplies industrial components used in harsh environments, like mining. TPC’s products are designed and engineered to withstand harsh conditions including abrasion, impact, and extreme temperatures.