Inspector of Mines – Occupational Hygiene
The underground mine environment may contain a number of airborne contaminants that affect worker health. This includes diesel plant exhaust (gases and particulate matter) that is emitted into the underground work environment.
The classification of diesel exhaust as a Class 1 ‘confirmed human carcinogen’ by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) necessitates the management of the workers’ exposure to diesel exhaust.
The Mines Inspectorate has undertaken a study of underground mines to evaluate the level of risk to mine workers and the effectiveness of differing management strategies for diesel exhaust.
In the initial phase of this study, the monitoring results for mine worker exposure to diesel exhaust were collated for underground Similar Exposure Groups (SEGs). The characterisation of the exposure monitoring found that some SEGs (service crews and drilling operations) have higher exposure risk.
In the second part of the study, the effectiveness of the control measures applicable to different SEGs were analysed to identify the optimal control strategies.
This paper presents the finding that no single control measure is sufficient, and that a multifactorial approach incorporating complementary control measures is required to ensure the effective management of diesel exhaust in underground mines.
Dr. Rolf Gomes
Founder and Cardiologist, Heart of Australia Corporate Health Initiative
Despite the enormous resources committed by the Mining Industry in developing workplace health and safety initiatives, the average health of the mining workforce still lags white collar employees.
Drivers of poor physical and psychological health amongst mining workers are often ‘external’ and lifestylerelated, commonly developing during the ‘crunch years’ (i.e. 25-50 when juggling increasing workplace and family responsibilities). These preventable health issues not only impact the growing burden of chronic illness in Australia but increase health and safety risks and contribute to diminished workplace performance.
Traditional attempts to address this issue have not commonly delivered long-term tangible outcomes for the individual or organisation. A more effective early intervention approach is required, incorporating contemporary biomedical, lifestyle, social and organisational research data. As well as having a rigorous clinical underpinning, new health screening programs need to be packaged into cost-effective and operationally efficient delivery models that enable democratised access across large workforces.
Successful early-intervention health programs across the Mining Industry offer significant mutual benefit to employees, workplaces and local communities alike (particularly via ‘network effects’ that exist within close-knit mining communities). Although currently lagging, the Mining Industry has the potential to become a recognised leader in this critical workplace and societal issue.
Director/Principal Consultant, Genevieve Hey Consulting Pty Ltd
A mines’ safety and health management system must provide protocols for physical and psychological impairment; but what does this mean? A protocol, like a standard operating procedure, governs behaviour and the performance of tasks; therefore, it should be underpinned by a sound risk management process that identifies and controls hazards within the given context. Unfortunately, studies show that industry more readily applies risk management processes to physical rather than psychological hazards; nevertheless, both must be considered for health and safety obligations to be fully discharged.
To complicate matters further, the analysis of psychological risk differs from that of physical risk due to its complexity.
Psychological risk factors are multi-causal, not directly observable and their severity is largely determined by individual perception. With this in mind, how is psychological risk quantified without bias and in a way that facilitates its systematic analysis? Additionally, how are protocols that reflect a mines’ unique psychosocial risk profile developed?
This paper provides the answer by discussing two workplace psychosocial risk assessment tools that are freely available online and grounded in evidence-based psychological research. Furthermore, these tools can be easily applied at your mine by your own Human Resource or Health and Safety specialists.