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Mining in Australia

Discuss about the Occupational Health Management Plan For Mining Industry.

An overview

Australia’s huge economy has the mining industry as a prime contributor which is one of the leading industries in the country. Excessive mining operations are carried across the different states as the availability of different minerals and ores is noteworthy. The primary geographic regions were mining is prominent are Goldfields, Peel and Pilbara regions of Western Australia. Pilbara region is known for gold mining and the number of employees at the mines in the year 2014-15 was 2,325. It is to be noted that the number of male workers at the mines was 2126 which was the majority. The process of mining involves layer bedrock to be stripped for reaching to the layer of ores buried under. The next step is to transfer the ores into the respective plants were they undergo processing. This requires engagement of heavy equipment as well as machineries such as drills, Bulldozers, trucks and explosives. Their function is to excavate the land after which the deposits are to be unearthed. Professionals working in this field are expected to have skills and experiences of operating such machineries. Reports indicate that most of the workers of the mining industry belong to the middle class families and the average age of the individuals is 30-45 years. In addition, they have 5-7 years of work experience in the similar field. Though the payment received by the employees is appropriate, it is not to be forgotten that they are exposed to high amount of risk at the workplace.

The business risks, to which the employees at the mines are exposed to, can be classified as noise-induced hearing loss, lung cancer, musculoskeletal diseases, and fatigue. Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused as a result of noise from drilling and blasting, and noise from material handling equipment. The impact of the risk can be classified as medium while the likelihood of the same is high. The mitigation strategies for the same are to be understood by the employees. The first strategy is to have retro sealing of the cabins of vehicle or work rooms with the help of acoustic dampening material. The second strategy is to have rotational shifts for employees for limiting exposure among workers while the third strategy is to set up hearing protection zones. Educating worker about the potential hazards and implementation of a noise management plan are the other strategies. The contingency plan is based on provision of insert plugs, earplugs and helmets for workers. Lung cancer can be due to inhalation of dust coming from drilling and blasts, and exposure to machine smoke. The impact of the risk can be classified as high while the likelihood of the same is moderate. The strategies for mitigation include use of sulphur fuel; provision of adequate ventilations; use of alternate fuel; regular equipment maintenance; and use of protective equipment. Contingency plan focuses on provision of medical consultation.

Risks and Hazards in the Mining Industry


Musculoskeletal disorders are due to exposure to damage suspension and over speed of vehicles in uneven road. The impact of the risk can be classified as high while the likelihood of the same is moderate. Mitigation strategies include enforcement of speed limit, adjustment of vehicle seat and suspension as per the load, and robust road management initiatives. Contingency plan would involve provision of medical consultation. Fatigue is common among workers which results from hectic workload, excessive night shifts and overtime. The impact of the risk can be classified as high while the likelihood of the same is also high. The mitigation strategies include flexible roster and provision of regular breaks, and limited night shifts on a row. Contingency plan would focus on provision of medical consultation.

Reports of experiences of mining workers denote that mining is a difficult task irrespective of whether it is carried out on or beneath the surface. It is important to remember that workers have a high level of exposure to different risks while they are working at the mining sites, the most noteworthy being noise hazards. Workers are exposed to different forms of noises such as those coming from mechanical handling, blasting or drilling. The most commonly suffered health condition as a result of continual exposure is hearing loss, as pointed out by McBride (2004). The researcher opines that there has not been any improvement in the prevalence of hearing loss in the last twenty years. Therefore, protection of workers is of prime importance. Noise hazards can be minimized by proper retro sealing work room with acoustic dampening material. Further, having the provision for rotational shifts for workers in areas where there is more exposure to sound is a good initiative (Sensogut, 2007).

Lung cancer is also a key health hazard suffered by mining workers(Hendryx,O’Donnell & Horn, 2008). The primary cause of lung cancer can be attributed to exposure to fossil fuel combustion, and ambient metals such as cadmium, nickel, zinc and chromium. These metals are corrosive and penultimate lung cancer. Critical analyses by Neuberger and Hollowell (1982) point out that worker who have more exposure to zinc have higher chances of dying due to lung cancer. The exposure occurs due to inhalation and inappropriate use of protective equipment. It is recommended that mining industries have the provision for a regular health checkup for the workers. In addition, robust atmospheric monitoring is also required. Though some improvement is noticed in this regard, much more is still to be done. Exposure limit at 0.2 mg/m3 for respirable dust is to be acknowledged and sufficient ventilation system is to be maintained.

Mitigation Strategies for Noise Hazards

Mandal and Srivastava (2010) mentioned that mining workers, more particularly dumper operators often suffer adverse conditions such as musculoskeletal disorders. Their nature of work makes them exposed to whole body vibration. A research with 40 dumper operator and 20 controls found that 85% suffered low back pain when compared to 20% of controls. Further, the percentage of people suffering ankle pain, shoulder pain and neck pain were 37.83%, 30% and 37.5% as compared to 5%, 0% and15% of control population respectively. The decline in the quality of life of the individuals was noticeable. Low level of awareness among the workers was main cause of such poor conditions. It is suggested that the workers consider adjustable suspensions and seats, competency training and systematic maintenance program for avoiding exposure.

Fatigue among mining workers is common even though workplaces consider application of advanced technologies for protecting the best interests of the workers. It is to be brought into focus that fatigue is the chief preventable cause of accidents in the industry. The two factors that make a mining workplace more prone to accidents are 12 hour shift timing for workers and need to use heavy equipment occurs (Edwards, Sirois, Dawson, Aguirre, Davis & Trutschel, 2007). Nevertheless, the application of advanced Fatigue Management Technologies holds the potential to reduce the number of casualties as these detect operator fatigue. Rosa (1995) stated that workers are to be provided a work schedule that has flexibility in relation to day and night shift. Consecutive shifts in night time would act as a vital measure for ensuring safety of the workers, thereby enhancing their productivity.

A rich pool of literature has highlighted the issues involved with the mining industry for a long time. The main concern that has emerged is that there is often a lack of well organized management plan used by the mining industries. It is to be acknowledged that only the provision of a systematic plan when formulated for the mining industry can ensure productivity of the workers and their safety. Such a plan is to have the following components-

  • Identification of hazards
  • Assessment of risk
  • Control of hazard and risk
  • Review

A critical and accurate inspection is the most essential step for identification of potential hazards. Nevertheless, there is a need of other initiatives for the identification purpose. Risk assessment is also needed with the data collection tools being interviews, questionnaires and surveys. In addition, analysis of already existing record and data of related work is a good step in this regard.

Mitigation Strategies for Lung Cancer

As mentioned, the value of risk assessment is not to be undermined as this is linked with a thorough analysis of the respective workplace. The tasks undertaken in this step include understanding of risk indicators, occurrence, and severity. This enables risk assessment before a major accident occurs, thereby leading to reduction of occupational hazards. In addition, reduction in repair costs and time is also achieved (Petrovi?, Tanasijevi?, Mili?, Lili?,  Stojadinovi? & Svrkota, 2014).

Hazard can be effectively controlled if the risks are eliminated from the sources. There lies many challenges in this regard as the workers have the obligation to work through such risks. The alternative strategy would be to isolate the worker at the time of risk at the setting and redesign the plan for minimizing the risks. Further, risks can also be controlled by provision of training in amalgamation with awareness programs. The impact on the workers is that they become self-aware of the consequences of such risks, thereby lowering the casualties. An example is hat drilling and bombing leads to noise hazards. It is to be remembered that risk factors cannot be eliminated from the root level as the activities are integral parts of the mining process. Thus, awareness to workers would act as the tool for isolating them from the major risks scenarios and ensuring their safety.

The evaluation of outcome is crucial to predict the success of the management plan. This can be done by reviewing whether control methods are efficacious or not. Comprehensive evaluation can be done by conducting surveys with workers to understand the extent to which risk has been minimized. The process for addressing risk can be summarization by implementing actions like commitment and participation, consultation and supervision. The details for each action are as follows:

Commitment and participation: Risk will be addressed by communicating priorities to health managers and collaborating with workers to report back on corrective actions needed to address the health issue faced by employees. Collaboration of OHS committee will also be done to ensure that health issue is addressed.

Consultation:  The consultation process that will be adapted to address risk includes providing feedback on reported issues to key stakeholders and ensuring that worker are engaged in the planning process to promote behavioral change at work. Identification and assessment of hazards will be done to recommend solutions to address health and safety risk related issues.

Supervision: The role of leader is important in this situation to train workers about methods to follow while reporting about health issues. They can engage in collecting reports and taking right action to resolve the problem completely.

Mitigation Strategies for Musculoskeletal Disorders

The emergency response to the issue will be taken from the following organization:

  1. State Emergency Services by contacting SES Emergency Centre (Ph. No.- (+61) 8 9771 2773)
  2. Police by contacting Australian Federal Police- ( No.- 131 444)
  3. Ambulance by contacting St John Ambulance- (Ph. No.- (+61) 8 9334 1233)
  4. Fire by contacting Old Bunbury Fire Station- ( No.- +61) 8 9721 4644)

For the blast evacuation, the following procedure will be followed:

  • Raising alarm and contacting emergency service agencies immediately
  • Waiting for evacuation signal and responding to the instruction of the warden
  • Evacuating the site calmly without any commotion
  • Arriving at alternative evacuation location (Corner of Safe Street and Sound Lane, City.)
  • Being accountable for the safety of all staffs at the premise.
  • The procedure will be guided by Minerals Industry Safety Handbook

Conclusion

Mining is a dominant industry that contributes the economy of the country. The mining sector has addressed employment needs of large section of population. However, the issues for the mining sector are lack of preparation regarding preventing hazards at the mining centers. To reduce exposure to hazards, implementation of proper hazard assessment and surveillance program is necessary. Interview and questionnaires is also necessary to direct collect information from employees related to the hazard. The report shows that development of effective management plan can promote safety of workers, enhance their quality of life and promote productivity of the mining sector too.

References

Boileau, P. E., Boutin, J., Eger, T., Smets, M., &Vib, R. G. (2006, June). Vibration spectral class characterization of load-haul-dump mining vehicles and seat performance evaluation. In Proceedings, First American Conference on Human Vibration.

Driussi, C., &Jansz, J. (2006). Technological options for waste minimisation in the mining industry. Journal of cleaner production, 14(8), 682-688.

Edwards, D. J., Sirois, B., Dawson, T., Aguirre, A., Davis, B., &Trutschel, U. (2007).

Evaluation of fatigue management technologies using weighted feature matrix method. In Proceedings of the Fourth International Driving Symposium on Human

Factors in Driver Assessment, Training and Vehicle Design.

Halvani, G. H., Mohsen, Z. A. R. E., &Mirmohammadi, S. J. (2009). The relation between shift work, sleepiness, fatigue and accidents in Iranian Industrial Mining

Group workers. Industrial Health, 47(2), 134-138.

Haney, R. A., Saseen, G. P., &Waytulonis, R. W. (1997). An overview of diesel particulate exposures and control technology in the US mining industry. Applied

occupational and environmental hygiene, 12(12), 1013-1018. 

Hendryx, M., O’Donnell, K., & Horn, K. (2008). Lung cancer mortality is elevated in coal-mining areas of Appalachia. Lung Cancer, 62(1), 1-7.

Mandal, B. B., & Srivastava, A. K. (2010). Musculoskeletal disorders in dumperoperators exposed to whole body vibration at Indian mines. International Journal of Mining,

Reclamation and Environment, 24(3), 233-243.

McBride, D. I. (2004). Noise-induced hearing loss and hearing conservation in mining. Occupational Medicine, 54(5), 290-296.

Neuberger, J. S., &Hollowell, J. G. (1982). Lung cancer excess in an abandoned lead- zinc mining and smelting area. Science of the Total Environment, 25(3), 287-294.

Rosa, R. R. (1995). Extended workshifts and excessive fatigue. Journal of sleep research, 4(s2), 51-56.

Sensogut, C. (2007). Occupational noise in mines and its control-A case study. Polish Journal of Environmental Studies, 16(6), 939.

Smets, M. P., Eger, T. R., &Grenier, S. G. (2010). Whole-body vibration experienced by haulage truck operators in surface mining operations: A comparison of various

analysis methods utilized in the prediction of health risks. Applied Ergonomics, 41(6), 763-770.

Wolfgang, R., & Burgess-Limerick, R. (2014). Whole-body vibration exposure of haul truck drivers at a surface coal mine. Applied ergonomics, 45(6), 1700-1704.

Petrovi?, D. V., Tanasijevi?, M., Mili?, V., Lili?, N., Stojadinovi?, S., &Svrkota, I.

(2014). Risk assessment model of mining equipment failure based on fuzzy logic.

Expert Systems with Applications, 41(18), 8157-8164.

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