Health & Safety Features

Witbank’s air quality – heard from around

By Matthew Wood - writer

It has been said that some of the highest levels of poisonous gases in the air are found above Witbank, in Mpumalanga, and the surrounds.

As the activity of mining is a key economic factor to Witbank, it is often first on the firing line.

Illustrating the problem

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Environmental teams from Europe went as far as to assess whether environmental and social offences were taking place.

This after South Africa’s Witbank and its coal mines were labelled as encroaching on neighbourhoods and protected areas.

According to Die Beeld, Gorazd Žibret, a geologist from Slovenia, said the levels of heavy metals in the air above the team’s research area were, according to their information, the highest in the world.

Witbank’s area is home to the country’s largest coalfields, and no fewer than 11 coal-fired power stations.

Government’s position on the matter is that we should continue to mine our coal reserves for the foreseeable future, and Eskom’s position is that coal is the primary choice for power generation they are prepared to invest in.

Solid air quality management in Witbank
“It is often said that the air quality management in Witbank is solid, unlike other places in our country, because you can see what you breathe in,” said Eco Partners managing director Charlaine Baartjes.

Click here to read the full feature article on page 3 of the January/February 2015 issue of MMPR ...

Supplementation – how to combat exhaustion and promote wellness

By Matthew Wood – staff writer

Mine personnel are among those who work under the most extreme operating conditions, so it is critical that they perform at an optimum level in terms of wellness, aided by the relevant supplements.

Matt Botha, co-owner of Odyssey Nutrition shares insight into fatigue management and anti-fatigue alertness solutions within the mining, petrochemical and industrial sectors, “We strongly believe that sustained energy levels in workers contribute to better focus, concentration, and ultimately a better sense of safety awareness.

In our opinion, fatigue, stress, and insufficient nutrition are some of the main factors that cause already dangerous situations to escalate out of control and result in incidents and accidents which can be fatal.”

Fatigue is a state of impaired mental and/or physical performance and lowered alertness which affects employees at every level of the organisation.

It is caused by a wide range of factors, including inadequate restorative sleep, hard physical or mental work, health and psychological factors. It is also a significant cost that most businesses simply bear because it is part of ‘working hard’ and often difficult to accurately identify. Fatigue can have deadly consequences, especially in environments where a loss of alertness can threaten the health and safety of the employee or others.

“In our experience with workers in different areas we’ve found that malnutrition or insufficient nutrition due to the lack of good quality food causes immune systems to deteriorate and ultimately cause serious health problems. Furthermore working in warm, humid or enclosed conditions underground as well as outside in most areas of our sunny country renowned for heat in summer, can cause dehydration which can lead to dizziness, fainting and ultimately kidney and heart failure. It is further proven that insufficient nutrition is directly linked to severe fatigue in workers during shifts and this compromises safety if not addressed,” continued Botha.

Click here to read the full feature article on page 03 of the Sep/Oct 2014 issue of MMPR ...

Be invincible – a story of PPE in the mining industry

Personal protective equipment is nothing new to mining at all. However, that is just how it appears on the surface as MMPR has discovered a number of “emerging trends” that need to be put into the spotlight, otherwise there is danger of them being taken for granted.The face of it 3M Personal Safety Systems Technical Affairs Manager, Doug Uren, and 3M Mining Technical
Manager, Greg Comely-White, shared some of these “emerging trends”, and other useful bits of information that ties into PPE, South Africa, mining, and the rest of the world. “With occupational health and safety, there is a lot more awareness of diseases than there were, say, 10 years ago,” said Doug Uren, “silicosis, noiseinduced hearing loss, and TB are major issues in the industry.

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Venting: the good and the bad

Doors represent a pivotal component to the overall structure of a mine ventilation system. 	As the system changes so do the doors.

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A well-run mine has a well-run ventilation system. With the removal of noxious gases such as NOx, SO2, methane, CO2 and CO, a healthy working environment is guaranteed.
Are mines in South Africa today being well maintained? Is there any missing link which could advance the situation? How does the situation fare?

“The philosophy currently in use to ventilate mines has remained the same over many years because it works," said Marco Biffi, past president of MVSSA (Mining Ventilation Society of South Africa). “There has been no major shifts in paradigm but the strategy is to introduce gradual improvements as we get to know more about emerging technologies.

“One of the biggest issues for me is that research in this particular field has virtually ground to a halt in South Africa due to financial constraints. When margins are squeezed, you have to cut costs, and typically investment into R&D is a primary target of cost cuts.  South African mining research once led the world, but now some of the solutions we see today have been developed overseas and in many cases have to be adapted to our conditions. We should remember that our precious metal operations are very different to those in Australia or Canada because the structure of the ore-bodies is different and it requires different considerations ranging from the exposure patterns of workers, to different hazards to the technology that is implemented in protecting them.

Click here to read the full feature article on page 3 in the Mar/Apr issue of MMPR ...

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