Several recent mining accidents involving trackless mobile machines (TMMs) as well as incorrect lockout procedures of equipment and conveyors, has led surface mining industry association (ASPASA) to call for closer adherence with safety legislation.

The association’s director, Nico Pienaar, says the majority of accidents can be avoided by following the requirements of the Mine Health and Safety (MHS) act, supported by the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) act, in conjunction with the mines own risk assessments.

Surface mines also have the added advantage of measuring compliance by means of ASPASA’s own health and safety audit which is available to all association members. The mandatory audits measure and provide corrective measures in the event on non-compliance which has led to the mines under the association’s banner reporting among the lowest level of incidents in the entire mining sector.

Hard lessons

“Providing better health and safety to all on our mines is not a competitive advantage but rather a responsibility that we all need to take seriously. Stipulations in the acts require that certain procedures and practices be put in place to avoid accidents in future. 

“In most instances these have come about as a result of previous accidents or where risk assessments have highlighted the need for legislation to prevent accidents. It is therefore critical to study the parts of the legislation that are applicable to surface mines and to each specific mine and o implement the required safeguards,” Nico advises.

“For example, when machine guards are not replaced, or are not replaced correctly after maintenance work is done and the plant is started, it is normally due to two other systems that were totally ignored and failed. These two systems would be the full compliance to isolation and lockout requirements, and total inspections of plants before start-up. 

“Both these systems rely on human interventions with employees doing the isolation and re-isolation after doing proper inspections before a plant is declared safe to be started. The human factor and human behaviour cannot be replaced by any electronic or computerized system. The same applies to TMMs where procedures need to be followed carefully to prevent accidents,” says Nico.

Audit trail

He continues that the association’s carefully compiled health and safety ISHE Audit Protocol was developed to assist and educate ASPASA members in the requirements of the Mine Health & Safety Act, and annual audits add value by evaluating compliance and identifying non-conformances for continuous improvements. 

More recently an OHS Audit Protocol was also developed and made available to those members who have other operations within their companies that fall under the requirements of the OHS Act. Major successes have been achieved with the health and safety of employees over many years by compliance to the ISHE Audit Protocol and the same success and added value can be achieved with the OHS Audit Protocol.

The audit also serves as a measure and opportunity to correct non-compliance issues and better prepare for inspections by the Inspectorate from Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) and Department of Employment and Labour (DEL).

Accident consequences

“We hereby call on all ASPASA members and others in the mining industry to be vigilant on the inspections and testing of all safety devices and to be more thorough in scrutinizing the compliance to all Legal and ISHE Audit requirements. 

“The Inspectorate from DMRE and DEL will definitely focus on deviations that led to these unfortunate accidents, and we might see more Sec 54 & 55 notices from the DMRE, and Corrective / Non-Compliance notices issued from DEL. 

“We would also like to call on the members with OHS Act operations to allow ASPASA to audit them and assist them to be fully compliant and add value to the health and safety of employees. Non-members need to be educated in the benefit of being part of this process to be educated and assisted to be fully compliant to Legal requirements,” Nico concludes.

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