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Safety Tips for Working Near Mine Water
10 July 2018
Safety Tips for Working Near Mine Water

Working in or around a mining site is a dangerous occupation. You need to be highly aware of your surroundings and will need to practise safety protocols as laid out by the law. Some of these safety protocols involve mine water treatment and staying safe around mine water, which can contain hazardous materials before it has been filtered. Outlined below are some safety tips to practice while working near mine water. 


Conduct daily workplace examinations

This is vitally important for any sort of mining safety but is especially effective in locating any possible water hazards. You will need to inspect the workplace daily, especially any areas that use water for their operations. 

Your daily inspection should include ensuring that all edge protection, barriers, warning signs and other suitable controls are visible to all mine workers and that all workers are aware of where the water sources are located on the mining site. The examinations should also make note of any leaks from equipment or spillages near electrical equipment. 


Know the water conditions before you start work

When looking at the mine site and the water conditions, factors such as water depth, tide changes, water flow and flood risks must be considered. Knowing the water conditions before you work ties into performing daily inspections, but it also a vital part of the mining site planning stage. 

Part of knowing these conditions includes knowing the subsurface conditions and ground conditions including the chemical materials of the soil. Mines such as the Izimbiwa Coal Mine perform lengthy soil and water checks. Once these conditions are identified, a plan should be laid out to measure the ground instability and to rectify this in order to ensure the safety of all workers. An example of what to look out for is whether or not the water has access to materials, as this can weaken the material’s strength. 


Keep equipment a safe distance from the water’s edge

This is vital in avoiding any incidents where trucks, cranes and other machinery from sliding into any mine water treatment ponds or water access areas. In order to keep equipment at a safe distance from the water’s edge, you will need to use edge protection, barriers and warning signs. 

The control used to highlight the water’s edge should be moved as the excavation shows signs of progress or the hazardous area changes. Keeping equipment away from the water’s edge is vital not only for the safety of the machinery operators but from other workers too, as they could be pulled into the water along with the equipment. Be sure that there are signallers for those driving cranes or trucks, in order to keep them aware of their surroundings. 


Medical facilities must be provided

Rescue facilities on equipment or in buildings near mine water must be provided. These include measurements such as equipping mobile plants with features such as push-out windows or window breaking tools in case of submergence in mine water. 

There needs to be an officially trained worker on the premises who knows CPR, and if the water contains chemicals or hazardous materials, chemical showers need to in place for workers to wash them off. All emergency numbers and safety protocols should be placed on signs around the mine so that workers are fully aware of who to call should there be an accident and what to do in times of emergency. 


Monitor the weather

While this might not sound like something directly related to mining, if you use water as part of your mining operations and have a nearby tailings pond for mine water treatment, monitoring the weather is an important safety step. 

If the weather is predicted to be very rainy, cold or windy then you will need to adjust your operation and make changes to the resource allocation accordingly. Operating a mine in inclement weather is not advised, not only because of the risks of inrush but also because of how it can affect your workers’ visibility when operating machinery and the ground instability caused by muddy or wet surfaces underneath this machinery. 


Use wind rows for added safety

If you are looking for an extra element of safety from water accidents in your mine, then you should install wind rows. Wind rows are guards that are used in mines that have open pits that machinery could fall into, making them highly effective in ensuring that no workers or equipment will meet this fate. 

These wind rows must be designed, constructed and installed with a sufficient height to offer strong enough restraint in case a vehicle does come into contact with them. These wind rows should be considerably thick, for example, five metres along the bottom and two metres along the top. This will ensure that should a vehicle come into contact with them, the impact does not cause them to collapse. Wind rows should be placed so that machinery operators have good visibility of the area surrounding them. 

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