The head-to-toe guide to basic mining safety

According to Safe Work Australia and Australian Mining magazine, 53 mining workers died on the job in the seven years to 2014. This equates to 5.76 fatalities per 100,000 workers, which is over 250 per cent higher than the national average of 2.29.

The most common types of injuries seen in mining

Respiratory: One of the most common problems in mines is caused by dust inhalation, also known as coal dust, ‘miner’s lung’, ‘black lung’ or pneumoconiosis. Symptoms include shortness of breath and scarring of lung tissue, which may cause ongoing respiratory issues.

Whole body vibration: Whole body vibration is a physical hazard that occurs in occupations that use heavy machinery. Symptoms include musculoskeletal disorders, reproductive damage in females, vision impairment, digestive problems and cardiovascular changes.

UV Exposure: Mine workers can spend long periods out in the hot sun and are at a high risk of developing cancer and eye problems if they are not adequately protected.

Musculoskeletal disorders: Musculoskeletal disorders refer to any problems affecting bones, muscles, blood vessels and nerves.

Thermal stress: Overexposure to heat and humidity can cause the body to become fatigued and distressed. This can result in heat stroke or more serious ongoing health problems.

Chemical hazards: The most common group of chemicals that cause concern in a coalmining environment is polymeric chemicals. Risks include chemical burns, respiratory problems and poisoning.

Physical: Vehicle accidents, falling rocks and machinery crushing workers cause the highest number of mining injuries and fatalities.

What Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to use to help prevent injuries

Protective headgear (hard hats): A hard hat is a rigid shell that resists and deflects blows to the head. Most hard hats use a suspension system inside the hat that acts as a shock absorber. If the hard had is fitted with a brow guard, it shields the scalp, face, neck and shoulders from splashes, spills and drips. If fitted with earmuffs, it also provides hearing protection.

Hearing protection: Ear Muffs suppress unwanted noise by completely covering the outer ear.  Disposable Ear Plugs are made from PU foam, and are designed to be compressed and inserted into the ear canal where they seal against noise. Reusable Ear Plugs are pre-moulded from washable silicone to fit snugly.

Banded Earplugs are an option for those who are constantly in and out of noisy environments. Metal Detectable Ear Plugs contain a metal tab in each plug and a metalised cord that is detected if they accidentally fall into processing lines.

Protective eyewear (safety glasses): Safety goggles fit tight against the face offering protection against dust, rocks, metals pieces and splashes. Polarised safety sunglasses greatly reduce glare, allowing workers to spot workplace hazards easier.

Respiratory gear (disposable and non-disposable): There are six types of airborne hazards – Dust, mist, fume, vapour, gas and oxygen deficiency / enrichment. Respiratory gear is designed, manufactured, tested and certified for use against a number of different hazards and is applied for a specific hazard.

Hand protection: The correct glove is very important and all safety gloves must be comfortable, fit well, protects against the hazards of a particular task, and provide good grip under diverse working conditions.

Foot protection:  An important factor for injury prevention and to maintain the health of your feet is wearing good footwear. Well-made and correctly fitted footwear will support and protect the foot.

There is no workplace where a worker is immune to foot injury. Basic knowledge of the workplace application and risk exposure is essential for footwear selection. Identifying hazards will help determine the best type of footwear for the job at hand and will help identify critical footwear features that are essential to minimise risk of injury such as the need for safety toe caps.

There is a variety of safety toe caps available in the market but it is widely acknowledged that steel is the safest toe cap material available. Steel capped safety boots provide maximum protection against impacts, cuts, penetration and rolling forces.

Blundstone produces a wide range of steel capped safety boots for men and women suitable for a variety of workplace applications including mining. Led by a research and development team based in Tasmania, Blundstone’s range of work boots have the latest in safety features and comfort. Featuring a range of sole types and XRD ® technology for supreme impact absorption, there is a work boot for every job.

See the Blundstone range here:  as well as a full catalogue of Blundstone safety footwear models.

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