How to Improve Safety Underground

‘Improved safety’ – it’s the label given to many mining technologies floating around the market.

And it’s a claim we make here at MST Global. But what types of technologies should you be investing in to improve safety at your operation? How can operations put a stop to incidents before they occur? Let’s unpack it further.

Safety has been a core issue for mining operations from the get-go. Mine sites are rugged, harsh environments. The safety risks are very real.

But unfortunately, serious injuries and fatalities are still happening globally despite the great strides government bodies, industry regulators, mining and METS companies are making towards an incident-free world.

Latest figures from the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) – which represents 26 of the largest mining companies – show that in calendar year 2019, members recorded a total number of 287 occupational fatalities.

While this was in large part due to the tragic Samarco tailings dam disaster in Brumadinho, Brazil, it was a substantial increase from the 50 fatalities recorded in 2018 and 51 fatalities recorded in 2017.

And this is just from 26 mining companies, not accounting for the deaths at mines in developing countries or for some contractor-based roles slipping through the gaps in reporting.

It’s a tough pill to swallow for the global industry highlighting more work needs to be done.


What Safety Means to MST

At MST, we’re on a mission to improve safety across underground mines globally and protect miners’ most important asset, their people.

Our whole company was founded on this provision on the back of the tragic explosion at QLD mine, Moura No.4, in 1986, which killed 12 miners.

MST Global Product Manager Denis Kent (MST Global’s first employee, who still works with our company today) said this severe incident shook the industry and was heartbreaking for the QLD community.

“In response to this disaster, the Government, through a scheme called the National Energy Research Development and Demonstration Council, made a special allowance of money available for research into mine safety,” Mr Kent said.

“A number of people in the industry encouraged MST Global’s founder to put in a submission to develop smart technology.

“Our founder spoke with a range of people internationally and the common issue was that during an emergency or disaster underground, all forms of communication were generally lost, especially in coal mines with large explosions and fires.

“The idea was that there should be some way to communicate with miners in the event of an emergency and give them directions for the best possible escape routes.

“MST then met with a number of CSIRO people and other miners in Australia and came up with concept for the PED (Personal Emergency Device and communication system).”

PED was the founding technology of MST, and from there we grew, continuing to address industry problems with industry-driven technologies.


Assessing risk

While safety issues have improved significantly since our inception in the early 90s, they were still a major cause for concern.

To put this into perspective, in Western Australia, one of the world’s leading tier-one mining jurisdictions, serious injuries were still happening at a rate of one per day and nearly 1900 workers have died on the job over the last 130 years.

According to Safe Work Australia, the inherent risks associated with mining today were body stressing, manual handling and musculoskeletal disorders; slips, trips and falls; being hit by moving objects or machinery; and working with high-risk plant.

These were all exacerbated by issues such as fatigue, visibility underground, unreliable connectivity, and not having access to real-time data and tracking.

But, with the right safety management system in place, bolstered by technologies that target these risks, incidents can be avoided.


Using data to improve safety

In Deloitte’s Tracking the Trends 2021 report, it said COVID-19 had reinforced the importance of maintaining employee and community trust, particularly around safety.

“Companies are now going beyond putting robust internal controls in place and are investing in intensive training,” the report said.

“Many are also taking steps to move workers out of harm’s way through the accelerated rollout of automation and robotics solutions.

“To move the dial on safety outcomes, however, the industry should embrace a new generation of integrated and predictive systems. The spread of COVID-19 may have smoothed the way for wearables by making people more comfortable with tracking and tracing mechanisms. However, wearables are likely just a first step.”

It said to take this to the next level, mining companies would need to create programs designed to prevent incidents before they occur.

“The ability to pool data to drive increasingly complex analytics now makes it possible to move from historical safety analysis to predictive solutions,” it said.

“The key is to leverage this confluence of issues to usher in a new wave of safety systems that put companies on the path to zero harm.

“This means harnessing the power of safety analytics in a more integrated way than in the past. With the right data, analytics can help companies go beyond a simple analysis of past events to identify potential future scenarios that create a higher risk of an incident occurring.”


Safety solutions in action

At MST Global, through our tracking and visualisation solutions, we are already on the path to enabling data driven safety management systems.

Our next-generation software platform HELIX is revolutionising the way mining operations use their technology on site, record, interpret and manage their data, track personnel and equipment, and visualise their operations.

Everything is streamlined into one platform, using a combination of our hardware and software systems.

Check out a preview of our HELIX platform below to see for yourself:

Want to find out how we can help you make better sense of your data to improve safety at your operation? Get in touch today.

April 29, 2021