According to PwC’s Mine 2019: Resourcing the future report, safety remains one of the mining industry’s major challenges across the globe. Whilst many companies are making a concerted effort to reduce the toll, mining related deaths are still on the rise with an ‘increase in fatalities from 96 to 102 for the 20 companies in the Top 40 that disclose safety statistics.’
Safety is a broad subject to address and can be approached from many angles. In recent days, the response of the mining sector to the COVID-19 pandemic underlines how much the mining industry does promote safety in the workplace. However, whilst the mining industry agrees with the need to take action and have made important steps in promoting safety in the workplace, perhaps the increase in fatalities stems from a lack of visibility or incapacity to implement scalable measures as the industry grows. To break the topic down and to find solutions, we can look at safety in terms of safety on site – or WHS – and safety in transport – or CoR.
Safety on site, in laydown yards and in storage warehouses is paramount. In an environment where the stakes are high and dealing with heavy equipment is the norm, precautions and safety measures need to be at an equally high level to mitigate the exceptional risks. Along with taking necessary care whilst moving around site and carrying out mining operations, this also means taking simple steps like ensuring safety in pallet racking storage through the use of pallet racking compatible pallets and cages, sufficiently restraining items in storage racks and making sure outdoor storage racking is engineered and rated for the items being stored.
The same applies when equipment is taken out of storage and prepared for transport. Safety in transport is an area in which heavy industry demonstrate perhaps the greatest lack in progressiveness. Whilst custom engineered transport frames are commonly utilised as a safe transport measure, oftentimes they are item-specific with limited uses and custom engineering makes them a costly investment.
However, operators need the ability to mobilise the transport of critical equipment at short notice.
Hence, other unsafe transport practices are employed. Too often, heavy equipment is strapped to underrated timber pallets or crates where they run the risk of breaking or popping off boards. One wrong move on the road and it could result in injury or worse, death. A modular transport system such as steel pallets with rated restraint bolts offers a safer, more compliant and more scaleable solution.
Whilst safety is massive focus for multinationals in the heavy industry, more action is needed to close the gap. The mining industry needs to take a holistic approach to the issue, including collaborating with vendors and suppliers to implement scalable, sustainable measures across the board that address unsafe transport and storage practices.
It’s time to reduce the toll.