Digging into the Relationship Between Mining Safety and Efficiency
An ancillary component to all mining operations, perhaps more so than any industry, is mining safety. Everything mine workers and their foremen do throughout their day-to-day itinerary should include extra attention to adhering to mining safety standards and improving on them wherever possible.
Though the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mining Safety and Health Administration reported workplace fatalities have plummeted over the last 40 years from around 250 annually in the late 1970s to under 50 in 2014, securing employees against risk protects them as much as the business itself. After all, time spent recovering from an injury chips away at a mining company’s productivity. In the end, it’s in everyone’s best interests to increase minig safety and prevent harm for both medical and financial reasons.
Taking extra precautions need not complicate the task at hand – safety and efficiency aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, foremen and managers seeking to optimize processes and improve the quality of their risk prevention can do so by simply focusing on improving efficiency in target areas.
As the first step to the mining process, fragmentation can have an incredible impact on mine development and even auxiliary operations. Proper fragmentation can align ore extraction with daily objectives, which subsequently allows workers and engineers to utilize mining and transport equipment at peak efficiency. It’s important every load sent to the surface doesn’t fall short of its predicted capacity, otherwise mine operators unnecessarily expend fuel, pay staff to work longer hours, and wear down machinery, all for a less-than-anticipated return. As such, implementing an intelligent, data-driven approach to fragmentation that consistently provides adequate resources helps everything after and beyond flow smoothly.
With all that in mind, we are talking about explosions, however controlled they may be. Luckily, some of the greatest mining safety tools also promote efficiency. According to a study by the Department of Mining Engineering at the Federal University of Technology in Akure, Nigeria, to protect workers from inefficiency, as well as safety hazards like fly rocks, miners should pay closer attention to rockmass and blast parameters. Just as a well-executed fragmentation sets up workers for ideal extraction conditions, a comprehensive assessment of rock density and placement of explosives enhance the effectiveness of the fragmentation. Additionally, competent adjustments to blast hole diameters and borehole depth reduces overburden and minimizes extraneous equipment use, which again, cuts down on energy, wear-and-tear, and time spent on-site that detracts from extraction.
When an occupation includes handling high explosives as part of the job description, it can feel as though a piece of everyday operations will be left to chance. However, mining professionals know that’s far from the truth. Businesses can takes steps toward calibrating their fragmentation, fine tuning it until it maximizes production and mining safety.
“Without ample attention paid to communication services, miners and engineers can lose productivity and decrease mining safety.”
Communication in the mining industry remains a multifaceted issue with a variety of considerations. Mining is one of the rare instances of workers performing 12 to 14 hour shifts over many consecutive days. In this business model, foremen and managers get the most out of their teams, which keeps production moving and on quota. That said, without ample attention paid to communication services, miners and engineers can lose productivity and the resources they need to stay safe.
Network communication provider Globecomm broke down mining communication into two basic hemispheres: reachback and mine site communication. Reachback communication connects the quarry with the outside world via telecommunications and Internet, typically used as a means for connecting “boots on the ground” with headquarters. However, as the Internet continues to grow in popularity as a source of entertainment, a reliable Wi-Fi or wired connection for workers to use during downtime keeps spirits high after intense physical labor. Moreover, during the workday, reliable web services and telecommunications also allow miners to perform research, supplying them with the information they need to do their jobs safely and efficiently.
To that same end, high-quality communication between workers can not only keep continuous processes in full swing, but at a blast site that uses explosives and industrial equipment to rend solid rock, it can also save lives in an industry. Workers should always have a reliable channel of communication to prevent accidental injuries. Additionally, as mining technology continues to advance, companies will also begin integrating more data-powered machinery, which will also require a strong network connection on which to transmit information.
Foremen, miners and engineers understand mining safety is not an option in their line of work, but a necessity, one that doesn’t have to be leveraged against filling orders on time and at allocation. By employing mining safety measures as a means to highlight areas of operation in need of an efficiency boost, these workers can have the best of both worlds.