Avoiding injuries when working in mines and quarries

It’s the same old story. Regardless of where you work from the relatively safe environment of a supermarket or office to the harsher settings of construction sites and farms and forests, the same categories of accidents and injuries predominate.

Mining and quarrying are no different, with falls, vehicles, machinery, being hit by moving or falling objects and explosions killing most people and handling, falls, slips and trips, vehicles, machinery and hand tools causing most non-fatal injuries. Where might you have heard or read this litany of pain and suffering before? Why, from a study of health and safety in practically any industry sector you care to name.

The injuries are the same; the results for the individual injured the same and the effects on the businesses they work for the same. What of course are also the same are the means by which such injuries can be avoided. We are of course talking about employers in the mining and quarrying industries complying with all the requirements of the UK’s copious and all-encompassing health and safety legislation and providing a safe workplace and ensuring as far as is reasonably practicable their employees’ health, safety and welfare whilst they are at work.

The risks to be managed in mining and quarrying, such as the unpredictability of the environment, the presence of heavy machinery and the danger from collapses, flooding and exposure to harmful dusts, gases and other particulates, are obviously different from those encountered in other types of workplace, but the process of managing them, based on risk assessment, remains the same. So why, based on the Health and Safety Executive’s workplace injury report data, are these proven tools not apparently doing their job in the mining and quarrying industry?

There is insufficient space in this article for, and the complexities of mining and quarrying preclude, the inclusion of all the risks and controls involved in helping to prevent injuries, but it still appears that the combination of the hazardous nature of the work and its complexity are continuing to frustrate attempts to bring down the injury rates, both fatal and non-fatal, in the mining and quarrying workforce, despite the industry seriously ramping up its engagement with health and safety over recent years.

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