There are generally hazards associated with working in many industries. Below is an interesting article submitted on the risks associated to working in the mining industry
On-the-Job Risks of Mining
Many people are aware that the mining profession can be very dangerous, if only due to news stories about mining catastrophes — you may remember the trapped Chilean miner incident from a few years ago. However, not as many people are aware that, major catastrophes aside, there are still many on-the-job risks of mining, from minor accidents to ongoing health hazards.
During the past 25 years, there have been increased safety regulations, safer machinery developments and more training and education initiatives for miners. These practices have significantly improved the prevention culture in the industry, which has led to fewer accidents. But that doesn’t change the fact that mining is still a dangerous profession.
Before discussing potential accidents and the health risks of mining, it is important to consider the average miner’s work shift. Typically, a miner works a 12-hour shift underground. Most miners work in one- to two-week stints with only a day or two off during that period. Because many mining operations are in remote locations, miners often have to remain at a mining camp for months at a time before returning home. The schedule requires stamina, good health and top-notch psychological strength.
Cave-ins are one of the most common underground mining accidents. They can take place for a number of reasons, including the following:
- The result of the gradual sinking of land
- Unsecured underground mineshaft walls and ceilings
- Cracks in the shaft floor and walls, as a result of excessive excavation, which can lead to a weakening of the whole structure
Floods are a big risk for both underground and above-ground mining sites. They can come about because of ground water ingress or uncontrolled surface runoff, such as flash flooding following heavy rains. Floods can compromise the stability of pit walls, bringing about a collapse that kills miners and wrecks equipment.
A methane gas buildup can lead to an explosion in a coal mine. As such, a work area must be properly ventilated in order to reduce gas pocket formation. Coal mining equipment must be monitored on a regular basis to look for faults that can cause sparks and set off explosions.
Chemicals are used in mines to transform ores from a natural state into usable commodities. When chemicals are not stored properly and/or miners do not adhere to safety procedures, accidents happen. It is also critical for miners who work with these chemicals to have appropriate ventilation to reduce the incidence of inhaling hazardous dust and fumes – these dangerous substances can result in long-term physical damage.
Mining crews must use heavy electrical equipment that poses severe threats, including industrial machines, drills and lighting. If the mining environment is damp, workers are highly susceptible to electrocution. Worn plugs and cables can also trigger explosions.
There are a number of reasons that fires can occur in mines, including faulty electrical connections, gas leaks and flammable chemical spills. Coal mines contain a number of combustible products, some of which can ignite at very low temperatures. Coal itself poses a serious hazard. Solid or uncut coal requires high temperatures to ignite, but coal dust ignites quite easily, which can have devastating effects. The presence of methane in underground mines also heightens the risk of both fires and explosions, as it can ignite or spontaneously combust.
One of the top on-the-job health risks of mining is dust. Blasting and drilling leave very fine mineral dust particles in the air that can accumulate in the lungs. This buildup can lead to pneumoconiosis. A disabling, irreversible form of this condition known as silicosis can develop when a miner inhales large quantities of quartz or crystalline silica. Another common form of the disease for miners is black lung disease. Pneumoconiosis can cause fibrosis, which is the scarring of the lungs.
Radon, an odorless radioactive gas, is associated with multiple kinds of underground mining. Long-term radon exposure can lead to lung cancer.
Mining welding fumes consist of vaporized molten metal. Long-term excessive exposure can result in pneumoconiosis, respiratory tract irritation and systemic poisoning.
Mercury is a heavy metal that’s present in some organic mineral compounds found in mines. The quantity varies slightly depending on the given mine. Workers can inhale or swallow mercury or absorb it through their skin. Even minimal exposure can result in significant poisoning. Mercury poisoning symptoms include mouth ulcers, weakness, tremors, bleeding gums, nausea, loose teeth, headaches, abdominal pain, cardiac weakness and diarrhea.
Mining processes are inevitably noisy. Mining equipment, including crushers, drills and engines, that lets off unfiltered noise can cause short-term or permanent hearing loss, eardrum rupture or compromised speech.
A quarter of all mining injuries that result in employees taking time off include back injuries from shoveling and lifting, as well as slips and falls.
There are a number of modern safety precautions that have greatly decreased or even eliminated exposure to all of the previously mentioned risks — black lung disease, which can be deadly, has been almost completely eradicated. These precautions include respirators, ventilation systems and ear protectors. They have substantially lowered the number of injuries and fatalities from the recorded totals of the late 20th century.
It is still important to remember that miners face constant exposure to roof falls, moving machinery, fires and explosions. There are different types of mines, such as metal, non-metal and coal mines, but many of the dangers remain the same across multiple environments.
Author Bio: Carol Sabovik is the Marketing Manager of TPC Wire & Cable Corp. in Macedonia, OH.