It is well known that mining is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, especially if precautions, safety procedures and mitigation techniques are not utilised effectively.

Workplace Fatalities

 Last year, world-wide there were 15 000 deaths reported in the mining industry, however, it is believed that the actual number is much higher. In Australia, the death toll between 2003 and 2016 was 3414 fatalities, this averages to 22 deaths per month. The overall trend has been decreasing steadily, however, the death rate is still too high. The last three years have had some of the lowest death rates, however, changes in safety must be updated and applied to further minimise the risk.  In 2017, there were 190 fatalities attributed to the mining sector and 149 fatalities in 2018. Since the 1st of January 2019, there have been 9267 deaths in the mining industry worldwide, with 83 of them being in Australia. 

The countries latest safety incident within the mining industry was at the end of June (2019) and is the third death in the Bowen Basin in the last 6 months. The incident involved a 27-year-old miner who was operating a digger at Middlemount underground coal mine when the mine collapsed. This occurred on the same day as a 57-year-old man suffered severe spinal injuries after falling 20m at the Collinsville mine. The President of Queensland Mining and Energy Steve Smyth has said: “It’s a safety crisis” and “there needs to be a major safety reset”. However, the call for a “safety reset” has been brought up multiple times in the past, with little to no backing to their claims. 

GRT-Mining-Industry-Dust-solutionsUnfortunately, these incidences and accidents aren’t uncommon. In July of 2018, a miner operating a dozer fell into a deepwater hole, leaving him stranded in the dark, with water up to his shoulders for over half an hour. In August of 2018, a service truck was rolled due to unexpected watering of the road due to miscommunication. There were two more vehicles that rolled two months prior to this incident. 

The high death rate in the mining industry in Australia has struck serious concerns of safety within the workplace. There are current concerns that there is an inadequate review of operating procedures. Is this the sole reason, or is there more to it?

If contrasting the causes of death of these workers from the last 15 years we see that 39% of the fatalities have resulted from a vehicle collision. This was followed by “falls from a height”, “being hit by a moving object”, “hit by falling objects”, and “trapped in machinery”.  Other factors include miscommunication, digger operator safety and inadequate assessment of mine integrity. The Queensland Government has issued a verbal confirmation that health and safety measures will be updated within the industry in Queensland. 

Health in Mining

The number of workers that are contracting Silicosis in Australia is increasing at an alarming rate, and has been described in the media as “Australia’s new epidemic”. Crystalline Silica is the primary constituent that is responsible for the onset for Silicosis and can be found in sand, stone, concrete and mortar. When the dust particles of crystalline silica are small enough they are able to be inhaled into the lungs and cause illnesses such as silicosis. 

 

At the end of 2018, an audit was initiated by the Queensland State Government. There were over 550 breaches of inappropriate work cleaning practices identified within the industry. The two major breaches were due to dry cutting of engineered stone and poor protective equipment, according to the ABC. With the study, it was also identified that there are approximately 98 cases of Silicosis in Queensland that has been caused by inhalation of dust, mostly from manufactured stone kitchen benchtops and bathroom vanities. Out of those cases, 15 have been diagnosed as terminal. Silicosis has been identified as worse than asbestosis, due to the time difference of diagnosis. Asbestosis takes years, even decades sometimes to form after being exposed, however, silicosis can be initiated within a few months of exposure. As a result, there has been an injection of $1.5 million into the industry to test over 800 workers for the deadly condition, with each test costing approximately $2000. Even though this is a great start to tackling this issue, there needs to be an upgrade in the safety framework and stringent rules regarding the use of protective equipment.

According to Safe Work Australia, the top three control measures are:

  • Substitution – such as utilising stone that has a lower silica composition
  • Isolation of the hazard – using autonomous technology for the dust-generating task
  • Engineering Solutions

Global Road Technologies (GRT) is a company that leads by example. They work to assist companies, managers and workers by providing a long term, environmentally friendly and cost-effective dust control solutions. Targeting the problem at the original source, that being dust. The technologies available by GRT can be utilised for above ground mines and worksites, as well as underground. Any worksite, or environment where the generation of dust is high, their products are able to be applied. Each product has been specifically engineering to cater for the needs of tackling dust, and almost eradicating the risk of dust exposure. Below are two examples of GRT’s products that are available. 

 

FeaturesGRT ActivateGRT Haul Loc
Non-Hazardous
Material TypeSuper Activate WaterPolymer-based Liquid
Non-Corrosive
UsesUnderground Mines/ WorksitesAbove ground mines/worksites
Non-Flammable
Non- Volatile
Water-Resistant
Biodegradable 
Non-Dissipating
Odourless
UV Resistant
Environmentally Friendly

 

GRT Activate was initially produced to control coal dust in longwall and continuous miner operations. This product was engineered to specifically deal with coal dust, as coal dust is by nature hydrophobic, and on a microscopic level repels water. When normal water is applied onto this dust, it causes the dust to become suspended, which increases risk of the particles to become inhaled. However, this product acts as a weight on the particles forcing them out of suspension and traps them in a liquid lattice. 

GRT Haul Loc is a liquid polymer that is added to normal water and suppresses the dust for up to 4=5x longer than normal water. It binds with water and creates a table layer resistant to heavy traffic wear, wind erosion and rainfall impact.