Mining Safety and Protective Clothing
Many injuries can be prevented by wearing the correct protective clothing/ gear. In this section we would like to discuss the correct clothing and gear required to perform many different mining activities. The Mining Sector could do well to follow the example from the motorcycle community and their acronym ATGATT (All The Gear All The Time).
What is the purpose of protective gear?
- Improved Visibility — Be Visible Be Seen is not a slogan only to be used in road safety initiatives. Higher-visibility gear is also important at the mine and especially when dealing with traffic at the mining site. Bright colours and retro reflective strips are common on quality equipment and make workers more visible to others such as motorists, truck drivers and even pedestrians.
- Abrasion Resistance — Thick, tough leather provides the most abrasion resistance in a crashes, but fabrics such as cordura, Kevlar and ballistic nylon provide significant protection too. In addition, fabrics are generally cheaper, easier to maintain, waterproof, and more comfortable in hot weather. Thick leather, which affords the most abrasion resistance, can be uncomfortable in high temperatures, may cause heat stress & loss of control with insufficient fluid replacement. Some gear is constructed of fabrics made into a 'mesh' that provides cooling and a stable surface for the attachment of padding
- Padding — Quality jackets and pants provide significant extra padding in the vulnerable joint regions. This can take the form of simple foam padding, or dual-density foam that stiffens when compressed, sometimes with plastic or carbon fibre outer-shells that distribute the impact across the pad. Integrated pieces can be found in some jackets.
- Weather Protection — an important aspect of protective clothing is protection from the elements. Extreme weather can sometimes make working conditions unbearable or dangerous. Gear needs to provide protection from wind, rain and cold.
What is the protective gear required for greater mining safety?
The best answer to this question is to approach the safety experts from different mines. Safety officers are exposed to all the daily risks on their mines and have experienced accidents, near accidents, falls and hazards in all weather conditions.
Some advice from the biking community that could benefit mineworker safety includes:
- Protective gear should conform to anatomy and not slide around.
- Vulnerable areas are the head, hands, knees, elbows, shoulders and hips.
- Gear should be bought for the protective qualities and not as a fashion statement.
Specific items of gear include:
We would like to reflect briefly on the similarities between protective clothing for bikers and mineworkers as a starting point from where we could investigate specific gear for specific mines.
- Full-face helmet: A full-face helmet provides the most protection. Thirty-five percent of all road crashes experienced by bikers show major impact on the chin-bar area.
- Gloves — Pavement and ground will mangle unprotected hands. Gloves should be specifically designed for the mining activity performed. Commonly made of leather, cordura, or Kevlar, or some combination. Some include carbon fibre knuckle protection or other forms of rigid padding. Some gloves also provide protection to the wrist.
- Jackets — generally made from leather, ballistic nylon, cordura, Kevlar or other synthetics. Most jackets include special padding on elbows, spine and shoulders.
- Pants — made of the same material as jackets, usually including special protection for the knees and hips. Some people prefer cotton denim jeans with Kevlar reinforcement.
- Boots — especially designed for the mining activity undertaken and could include reinforcement and plastic caps on the ankles, and toe area.
- Goggles or Helmet Visor — Eye protection is of utmost importance - kicked-up pebbles or pieces of metal in the eye at speed has enough momentum to cause significant damage.
- Ear plugs —Ear plugs help protect against hearing damage, and even reduces fatigue.
- Vests — made with high-visibility colours and retro reflective materials, vests can be worn over jackets to increase the chance of being seen. This becomes even more important especially in adverse conditions of dark and wet.
Other gear might be required in special circumstances:
Plastic armour is often used to protect against injury. This type of armour typically covers the back, chest, and sometimes the extremities. It is increasingly common for gloves, jackets, pants, and boots to be outfitted with hard plastics on probable contact areas.
The above items are not a complete list and might differ according to specific hazards experienced or the activity undertaken. There are other items to be considered such as knee guards, back protectors etc. They are important components to be budgeted for by the safety conscious mining company
Good gear does not protect you if you don't wear it! For increased safety it is of the utmost importance to maintain the best possible wearing rates of protective clothing/ gear at all times!!