Due to high safety risks, mining is considered one of the most hazardous industrial sectors and compared to 2020, South Africa, which has some of the deepest and oldest mines in the world has already seen a 33% increase in mine deaths in the first half of 2021. This regression in safety has government, mining authorities and unions focused on improving safety in this sector.
“The safety and cleaning of mines however goes hand in hand,” says Emma Corder, managing director of cleaning products and equipment manufacturer Industroclean.
“In terms of hygiene, the Mine Health & Safety Act, 1996 is to establish, maintain and record hygiene measures but amongst the top challenges in this sector is missing the link between safety and hygiene,” Corder continues. Crucial to medical environments, hygiene practices such as sanitation, sterilization and disinfection is just as vital to the sector.
The mining industry has very specific cleansing challenges, especially below ground which makes it vital to appoint a cleaning partner that can assist with all aspects of mine cleaning and hygiene from machines and equipment to consumables and chemicals as well as training on how to use these products safely and efficiently.
Cleaning methods and products used are dependent on the areas which need to be cleaned. Below ground the areas that need focus are underground workshops, wash bays and machinery. With strict regulation in place for the type of equipment that can be used because fumes, electrically powered cleaning equipment that can deal with big or small spaces is ideal.
Powerful auto scrubbers and sweepers with high brush pressure are suitable for underground use in workshops and in areas where there is a serious potential for slipping on a collection of dust.
At open cast mines the priority is any areas where big machines are loading onto dump trucks and specialized sections in workshops where engines are removed and cleaned. Hot water pressure washers, sweepers and auto scrubbers can be deployed here.
Above ground mines usually have their own labs for testing samples and batches, an environment where hazardous dust, spillages or very fine debris pose a health and safety risk and where an industrial type vacuum cleaner would be required.
Dust inhalation or coal dust is one of the most common concerns for miners who are at risk of breathing in dust and debris, causing major health issues. It is essential for Health and Safety representatives to consult with cleaning industry experts to ensure they are adequately managing this risk.
The main objective for the industrial hygiene profession in the mining industry is risk reduction and risk elimination and to prevent job related illnesses as not only injuries pose a risk.
“Mines that follow a suitable cleaning regime reduce the amount of air pollution, limiting the exposure for employees and residents of the surrounding communities. A reputable and knowledgeable cleaning partner should first conduct a risk assessment and advise clients on how to achieve the goals as set out in the occupations and safety rules mines must adhere to,” adds Corder.
As for economic benefits, downtime means loss of income and a cleaning partner that can provide a solution which can save time and is cost efficient is a “win-win” situation. Improved cleanliness and safety, supports better productivity and reduces mines’ costs. Industrial vacuums and sweepers suited for heavy industry and able to tolerate tough work rhythms and environmental conditions and constant wear and reliability reduces downtime.
Customisable cleansing programmes and equipment also improve ergonomics and reduces consumable usage which means easier and lower maintenance for the mines.
Covid has had a global impact on how we go about carrying out everyday tasks, but the vital role of hygiene companies specifically has been highlighted and they are no longer considered simply as suppliers but as business partners.
A clean environment reduces the likelihood of an incident happening. “Clean equipment means less wear and tear. If equipment functions optimally, then there is less risk of malfunction and accidents says Corder.
Being able to combine advanced imported technology with a proficient local manufacturing programme elevated the organisation to the role of market leader.
“With access to the latest global technology our technical personnel are able to adapt and tailor-make cleaning equipment specifically for the South African market,” Corder concludes.