Gold Mining Safety: The Good News, The Bad News, and The Fake News

Gold mining is one of the world’s most dangerous professions. Tens of thousands have died from preventable mining accidents over the years, and many more have suffered debilitating injuries and long-term illnesses. But have no fear, it’s not all doom and gloom. There’s some good news to be had as well. Things aren’t as bad as they could be. Fatalities have dropped dramatically over the years, and safety regulations are becoming more standardized. Then again, there’s also some fake news. Because despite all the speculation from the naysayers and the avoidance of the procrastinators, the process of proving safety compliance will soon become exponentially more difficult to manage, particularly in the US.

Gold Mining Safety Blog

The Good News:

Today’s gold mining operations are safer
than ever, especially in the US.

Throughout the last century, the efforts of mining safety professionals, combined with decades of technological innovations, intense research, and preventive initiatives, have driven a worldwide reduction in the number and severity of mining accidents, particularly since the early to mid-1900s when several hundreds of American miners were dying each year in surface and sub-surface mines. While only 122 have died in the past five years.

 

The Bad News:

Conditions aren’t improving at the same
rate globally.

While mining safety professionals continue to reduce accidents, save lives, and improve overall workplace health and safety, many are frustrated with their inability to implement strategic safety measures that really make a difference. Injuries are up, and illnesses are rampant. Sure, fatalities aren’t increasing (outside of illegal operations and in countries like South Africa, where fatalities were actually up 20% last year). But they’re not decreasing, either. In fact, while just 1% of the world's labor force works in the mining industry, 5% of all on-the-job fatalities are miners . To top that off, most of these deaths were due to preventable incidents like equipment failures, rock falls, fires, and tunnel collapses.

 

The Fake News:

The Trump administration will stop
MSHA’s Final Rule on Workplace
Examinations

Despite the “Regulatory Freeze Pending Review” memo issued by the White House in January, the MSHA is moving forward under the assumption that the workplace examination rule qualifies for a health and safety exemption and will not be further hindered by the new administration. While it still faces some legal appeals and widespread criticism from opponents (who claim it to be overkill and nearly impossible to comply with), the MSHA will begin enforcing the rule effective July 24, 2017. Any operation that continues to fight back, procrastinate, or pray for another delay may be left with their pants down this summer when an onslaught of new reporting and documentation requirements come into effect.

Here are the key components of the Final Rule:

1. Workplace examinations must be conducted every day before miners begin working

2. Operators must immediately notify miners of all adverse safety or health conditions

3. Operators must show proof of corrective actions, taking note of the exact date and time

4. All records must be readily available at any time to MSHA, Secretary of Labor, and miner labor representatives

 

Gold Mining Safety White Paper

Interested in digging deeper? Download our gold mining safety whitepaper:

STRIKING OPERATIONAL PAYDIRT:
How Mobile Technology is Improving Gold Mining Safety and the Bottom Line.

 

The Bottom Line

Despite what happens with the Final Rule, safety professionals and GMs who continue to rely on paper or spreadsheets will eventually be in for a rude awakening if they don’t start preparing for a digital future now. That’s just too much paper to manage, too many spreadsheets to handle, and no way to improve on safety numbers that just aren’t getting any better. Even operations with homegrown mobile technology systems will struggle if their current solution lacks flexibility, mobility, and key features like offline access, and automation of CAPA, workflows, tasks, and alerts/notifications.

Mining organizations who embrace the latest in mobile technology, on the other hand, are poised for new highs in safety and production while simplifying the compliance process. They’re reacting to the data they capture in real time to find and fix problems faster than ever – even before they happen. They’re automating CAPAs and implementing predictive maintenance programs to increase machine uptime from pit to plant. Some are even leveraging data to help them find mineral deposits and optimal drill locations without the costly expense of hiring a third-party geologist. All of this is leading to fewer accidents, greater productivity, and less downtime.

Mining operations are also using mobile technology to perform:

 

Safety Checks
Managing safety risks and violations with
standardized incident reporting and insight into
day-to-day operations.

 

Process Audits
Quickly measuring observed behaviors against
predetermined mining safety, procedural,and
operational standards.

 

Site Audits
Performing ongoing site quality, HSE inspections,
and observational-based audits to improve safety
and ensure compliance.

 

Automated CAPA and Workflows
Gathering data from inspections and audits to
trigger automated action plans and workflow to
fix issues and streamline operations.

 

Asset Inspections and Management
Managing and analyzing asset performance with
risk-based inspections and predictive maintenance.

Interested in learning more about how mobile technology can prepare you for a digital future?

Download our white paper:
Striking Operational Paydirt: How Mobile Technology is Improving Gold Mining Safety and the Bottom Line

Download our eBook:
9 Bottom-line Benefits of Mobile Technology and Big Data in Mining

Contact us for a demo.

Scott Regan