Underground worksites such as mines and tunnels are tough and dangerous workplace environments: so much so that a small oversight can turn into a massive issue down the line, particularly when faced with difficult situations.
Because of the challenging conditions inherent to the site; the level of physical and mental preparedness required, as well as the responsiveness in challenging situations and a meticulous adherence to protocol are all hugely important factors.
Given the level of physical effort, attention to detail and sense of calm in emergencies required for the job, it is not surprising that many operators compare going down to the mine with mountain climbing or diving: you are faced with situations where a minor mistake could entail potentially terrible consequences.
For instance, the remote location of many mines could imply heavy delays in the arrival of emergency medical help and rescue teams: a deep cut that may be easily sorted out in a hospital could become a much bigger issue without medical help at hand.
Putzmeister Underground’s team has put together a list of things to bear in mind before heading underground.
Have you worked in underground mines and tunnels? Share your experiences and tips in the comment section below.
- Adapt to local altitude and temperature beforehand: Many mines such as in Peru are at located at high altitude, so it’s advisable to acclimatize appropriately in order to avoid altitude sickness and hypoxia. Other mines such as in Russia can see temperatures dip to around -30° Celsius, while mines in countries such as South Africa can see temperatures soar above 40° Celsius: try to get used to the local climate before you undertake physical tasks.
- Rest well and avoid alcohol: Make sure you get a good night’s sleep and avoid alcohol intake as well as any certain prescription drugs that could impair your abilities. Some underground mining and construction operations will carry out medical check-ups and do tests such as spirometry tests, stress tests, blood and urine tests, and even breathalyzers to ensure all operators are perfectly able to carry out their jobs.
- Check your protective equipment: it’s hugely important to check that your protective kit is complete and in good working order: overalls, safety harness, helmet, gloves, glasses, boots, etc.
- Ensure your lamp is in working order: your lamp is one of the most important pieces of kit in the mine. Not only does it improve visibility for the carrier, but it also allows you to be seen by other operators, and it is common to find a code of signals that indicate whether it’s safe to do certain things like such as moving ahead or backwards. Make sure you also have enough battery to see you through your working day.
- Familiarize yourself with the oxygen escape set: this piece of kit could prove essential to your survival in the event of an emergency. The breathing set provides oxygen for use in extreme circumstances such as fires or landslides. It’s absolutely paramount to know how to use it: misuse could result in severe injuries such as oesophageal burns.
- Properly pack your kit when using transport: for underground mining transport, make sure you have no loose, dangling bits of equipment that could get caught in the rock and cause accidents.
- Memorize escape routes and shelters: Make sure you remember the layout of the site, including the location of key escape routes and shelters or other emergency rescue chambers in the immediate vicinity in case of emergency.
- Remain calm yet vigilant: underground construction sites will often see many different jobs being carried out simultaneously: there could be several bits of equipment working which together make a great deal of noise, as well as drill and blast work. It’s imperative to remain calm yet vigilant.
- Abide by the mine’s safety measures: Every mine is a world onto itself, and is subject to its own set of rules and procedures, designed to best suit the specific needs of that site. Make sure to know what they are and implement them, particularly in case of emergency.
- First ensure your own safety, then help others: operators are always trained to be look after themselves first, and helping out other team members only after having ensured their own safety first when in an emergency.