Suspended safety

In a bid to enforce mine safety, Australian Standards have been updated to ensure all safety harnesses are designed with a frontal, fall arrest rated, attachment point. The Fall Protection Manufacturers Association secretary Gordon Cadzow writes for Australian Mining.

With the amount of construction and maintenance work being conducted in remote areas, including mining, port facilities and off-shore petroleum, it’s only a matter of time before a worker conducting work at heights has a fall and, on a good day, is left suspended in their safety harness.

This is one of the reasons why Australian Standards have recently been updated to ensure all safety harnesses are now designed with a frontal, fall arrest rated, attachment point in order to assist with rescue, be it self-rescue for a conscious patient or assisted team rescue for an unconscious patient.

Saferight is a founding member of the Fall Protection Manufacturers Association (FPMA), which comprises all major manufacturers of Fall Protection equipment in Australia.

Saferight’s managing director Mark McCormack said mining companies could not afford to cut costs on safety.

“Nobody, other than possibly Houdini, could self-rescue from the old parachute style full body harness with only a single Dorsal D rear attachment,” he said.

“Suspension after a fall in this type of product invariably leads to concerns on the rapid onset of suspension trauma – or suspension intolerance – if the worker is left suspended for a long period of time while rescue personnel and specialist equipment are being organised.”

Rescue effort

To speed any rescue requirement, rescue teams from mining companies are kept on their toes by participating in mines rescue competitions throughout Australia on a regular basis.

These competitions focus on raising skill levels and developing new equipment and techniques through healthy competition.

Recently, Western Australia staged the Annual Chamber of Minerals and Energy Underground Mines Rescue challenge in Coolgardie near Kalgoorlie, W.A. Thirteen teams from around the State participated in the two-day weekend challenge.

As an adjudicator, Saferight endeavour to keep the scenarios as realistic as possible, while maintaining safety at all times.

Gone are any pre-conceived DS (directive staff) solutions.

Teams are given full scope to use new equipment and new techniques to solve the specific rescue problem.

As such, the activity is timed to add real pressure, and an administrative cut off of 45 minutes is applied to all teams to allow for the volume competing.

All teams are made up of volunteers and are competing in their own time – which shows real dedication.

In setting the scenarios, adjudicators try and keep the fall accident as real as possible, such as a worker who has fallen into a fine ore bin or the classic electrical contractor who has been electrocuted, fallen off his ladder and left to dangle in space. Secrecy about the accident scenario is a must to prevent teams from pre-planning the rescue. That is not what happens in reality.

Teams are presented with all the equipment that they would normally use on their site. Adjudicators look for inspection tags (six monthly) and signs of correct storage, e.g. out of direct sunlight, stored off the ground due to possible chemical spills and to avoid damage through falling equipment or weights and so on. This inspection is conducted at the time of the scenario briefing.

Teams are given the green light knowing they have 45 minutes to complete the rescue plus 15 minutes clean up and reset the scenario.

Team safety is paramount and adjudicators do not get involved, (the brief being “say nothing, you are not there”), unless there is a direct safety breach, such as a screw gate karabiner left open on anchor points or descent devices, or kill pin anchors used in axial loading.

Drop hazards, such as open circuit breathing apparatus bottles, oxy viva, stretchers and loose karabiners would also be pointed out from a safety perspective.

Without affecting team safety, points are awarded for the speed at which the team can safely secure the patient to prevent further injury. They need to initiate raising/lowering or cableway systems, whilst simultaneously providing first aid and monitoring the patient.

Finally, points are given for the recovery of the patient to the allocated area, such as shaft level, drive, decline, ground or awaiting ambulances for pick up and debrief.

McCormack confirms that, although it sounds very exciting to conduct rope rescue underground, it is difficult for spectators to watch this “high wire” routine when it occurs 2 km underground.

“To promote public support and to allow family and friends to provide encouragement, approximately 80% of high angle rescue competitions are arranged on head frames, conveyor belts or haul trucks. Teams get very focused, especially if they are new, and the adrenalin flows.”

Safety alert

With 18 years of experience, Saferight specialises in giving safe and sound advice to mine sites.

The company insist mine sites make sure the team is safe at all times. For example, miners should not dall for the trap of going near an unprotected edge in order to see a patient.

Sites should also get their medic to the patient and secure the patient as quickly as possible.


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