Implementing Health Safety and Environment Management System for Mine Safety

The mostly catastrophic nature of mine accidents including trappings in mine collapse, exposure to a range of hazardous substances, major injuries and fatalities all of which can be avoided provided safety rules are observed necessitates the development and implementation of HSE-MS for mine safety. Besides the mine operators’ requirement to comply with Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) and environmental legislative frameworks, responsible organisation cannot overemphasize the far reaching implication of an effective health, safety and environment management system on employee safety and health, maintaining goodwill of host communities, and ensuring sustainability of the environment.

Various illnesses, disease and other traumatic occupational injuries may occur during or after a worker has been disengaged. Therefore, workers health and safety must focus on ensuring the provision of hygienic environment, personal protective equipment to protect them from noise and vibration; dust, fumes, mists, gases, and vapours; chemical and hazardous materials; and ultraviolet radiation. Ergonomic stressors leading to musculoskeletal, back, and fatigue related conditions must be reduced or eliminated by revising or modifying work procedures or reducing exposure to sources of stressors by adopting mechanized processes or use of mechanical aids.

Due to the significant work-related safety issues, hazards arising from fire, explosions, falls and collapse, and underground transport must be prevented. The safety standards in mine operation must all be adequately followed to ensure risks are as low as reasonably practicable. They include manual handling, confined space entry, isolations and tagging, housekeeping, excavations, barricading, grid mesh and hand rail removal, working at heights, scaffolding, man cages/workboxes, and fixed and portable ladders. Safety standards associated with vehicles and mobile plants include speed limits, vehicle maintenance, mechanical inspections, significant crane lifts, mobile elevated work platform (MEWP), and forklifts while those related with fixed plant and equipment are equipment safeguarding, welding and gas cutting, high pressure water equipment, compressed air equipment, portable tools and hoses. Electrical safety standards cover electrical equipment inspection, testing and tagging procedures, flexible cords/extension leads, generators and welding machines etc.

The development and implementation of an effective health and safety management system is germane to creating a safe and health working environment which should including mine safety management plan and risk management plan. Engaging competent specialists and practitioners to develop, implement, maintain, and review effective health and safety system is critical for mine safety. The management plans will document the commitment, intentions, and principles related to the total management of specific aspects of operations whilst setting the objectives and the action framework.

Developing a mine safety management plan that is encompassing and implementable requires that the leadership assumes responsibility and ensure accountability in the development of policies, goals and targets for safety management. This include keeping abreast of all relevant legal requirements whilst ensuring workers undergo induction training and competency assessment for different operations and procedures. There must be continuous communication and consultation with all stakeholders through toolbox meetings, safety alerts and disciplinary process to ensure compliance to safety requirements while an effective emergency preparedness and response must cover first aid, injury management, and incident reporting. 

Risk management must identify assess, control and evaluate hazards that predispose workers and visitors to significant health risks in the workplace. Control measures must be appropriate and effective with hazard reported to fast track corrective actions. This will aid the development Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) when implementing standard operating procedures (SOPs) and standard maintenance procedures (SMPs) to ensure processes are conducted safely whilst risks and hazards are as low as reasonably practicable. Importantly, the HSE-MS must be subjected to compliance audits and reviews periodically to verify and ascertain the effectiveness and implementation of the system.

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