Because of the unique dangers in mining operations, workers need extensive safety training. Mandatory and optional training is widely available to mining professionals, rapidly raising the safety standards of this industry.
Compulsory Training Programs for Miners
Most mining countries mandate that each mine has an approved worker training program in health and safety issues. Each plan must include a certain quantity of hours of basic safety training for new miners with no experience. In addition to new miner training, each miner must receive regular refresher safety training every year, and miners assigned to new jobs must receive safety training related to their new task.
Prevention Through Simulation
Increasingly, mines use more high-tech tools for miner training, such as machinery simulators and virtual reality simulators. By simulating actual mine conditions and emergencies, mine workers are better prepared, and companies can instantly assess a mine worker's progress and skills.
People in charge of blasting operations attend specific training and are required to be licensed for the use of explosives and initiation systems. Most mining countries set up a specific refresher safety training for experienced blasters to integrate fast-paced changing legislation (especially after 9/11) and the new technological trends.
- Administration classes on health, safety, and mining methods
- Mining machinery manufacturers offer courses in machine operation and maintenance with emphasis on safe practices due to potential liabilities in case of an accident
Common efforts of governments, mine operators, labor, professional organizations, and academia are likely to be the rule in most mining countries to promote up-to-date, efficient safety legislation and harmonization of practices.
Nevertheless, international mining groups have developed exploitation and production health and safety standards that are implemented in their mines regardless of the countries where they are operating. As they are corporate standards adopted by listed groups, those standards and prescriptions are likely to be much more protective than many local regulations.
The introduction of new technologies has been continuously contributing to reducing the injury and fatality rates in the mining industry. The larger occurrence of mining accidents in developing countries and in illegal mining operations is directly related to a lack of up-to-date technology, especially regarding:
- Personal Protective Equipment: Standards personal protective equipment, including adequate radio communication devices or safety lamps that won't potentially trigger explosives atmospheres.
- Exploitation Infrastructure: Exploitation infrastructure for fire alarm, gas management, miners rescue, ventilation, etc.
- Explosive Products: Now there is available a wide range of water-based emulsion explosives and precise programmable detonators to initiate it. These make a major difference in safety versus unstable TNT-based explosives or erratic traditional detonators (fuse caps). Between 1978 and 2000, 106 miners were killed and 1,050 were injured by explosives and breaking agents. Electronic detonators are a good example of technological progress towards a safer mining environment. The real safety advantage to the system is that the miner in charge can have total system verifications before he goes into a charge-and-fire sequence, which means that almost all potential problems will be known upfront before firing. So corrective measures can be taken, and save lives. This level of safety and operational transparency was previously impossible.
- Machinery to Replace Operators For the Most Dangerous Operations: Some mines have now set up fully robotized drilling and explosives charging processes.
Freedom of the Press and Public Concern
Being able to conceal an accident from the public easily gives no incentive to local operators to improve the health and safety standards in their operations. Freedom of the press, trade unions, and NGOs play a key role in reducing mine accident rates.
Public concern about mine accidents has already prompted passage of stricter safety legislation, improved training methodology, safer practices, and technology.