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Monthly Spotlight: Prevent Complacency with Haulage Safety

Mine traffic is one of the most dangerous operations on a mine site, with haulage ranking as one of the leading causes of fatalities in the surface mining industry. In 2012 alone, there were 112 accidents classified as powered haulage at stone, sand and gravel operations - not taking into account these types of accidents at other types of mines.

There are a few specific actions MSHA suggests drivers take before and during vehicle operation to help decrease the likelihood of mine site traffic accidents. First and foremost a thorough, pre-shift inspection of the equipment must be completed by the operator. Any safety defects found need to be documented and addressed before operating the machinery. If there is an issue, the operator must, by law, take it out of service for repairs. Also all employees should understand and be task trained on the equipment they are operating. They should understand safe operating speeds and any vehicle-specific hazards they may need to deal with. Finally, drivers should not use mobile communication devices or other items that could distract them while operating the vehicle or equipment. It’s important that the driver is 100 percent focused on the task at hand to avoid any accidents.

While proper training and actions can be specified for drivers to increase safety, complacency can still become an issue. When performing the same activities day after day, drivers can become de-sensitized to hazards and overlook safety procedures. To combat complacency with haulage and overall traffic operation, it’s important to develop a “culture of safety” where every employee feels empowered with the knowledge and skills they need to identify hazards and risks. Employees should be encouraged to contribute to the development of procedures that increase safety.

In materials developed by MSHA last year, the association stated that “every miner who operates a surface haulage machine needs to develop a ‘Zero Compromise Toward Safety’ attitude.” It also outlined a series of best practices mines can take to develop a culture of safety at their site. Some of the practices employers and employees can take include:

  1. Utilizing pre and post operational checklists so drivers can report safety hazards.
  2. Watching for and reporting any hazardous conditions on or around haul roads and traffic areas.
  3. Ensuring all drivers understand that their ability to interpret the performance of the vehicle will directly affect their ability to operate it. Drivers need to monitor the equipment for unusual noises or performance to prevent equipment failure and ultimately a fatal accident.
  4. Keeping the machinery clean and orderly so unobstructed operation can be performed.

To read the full set of MSHA best practices for haulage safety, click here.

Compliance Talk

Controlling Traffic

Due to the high risk of accidents associated with mine traffic and haulage, MSHA has specific guidelines regarding the marking of roadways on a mine site. While these regulations vary depending on the type of mine you operate, they help ensure that traffic is clearly regulated and organized to create the safest environment possible. MSHA requires:

Metal/Nonmetal Mines, 56/57.9100(a): Rules governing speed, right-of-way, direction of movement, and the use of headlights to assure appropriate visibility shall be established and followed at each mine.

Metal/Nonmetal Mines, 56/57.9100(b): Signs or signals that warn of hazardous conditions shall be placed at appropriate locations at each mine.

Coal Mines, 77.1600(b): Traffic rules, signals, and warning signs shall be standardized at each mine and posted.

Using these regulations as a guide, it’s up to each mine to understand its traffic needs and develop an organized and safe traffic system that works for their work site. Signage and other traffic indicators should be used to communicate policies and patterns to drivers, whether they are employees, customers or visitors. Training should also be used to ensure all workers understand traffic rules and procedures.

MSHA regulations are vague on this topic, so if you have doubts that your traffic indicators are effective, they probably can be improved. Spend time thinking about your specific needs and from there choose the best traffic signs and traffic control methods to keep your mine safe and organized.

To learn more about MSHA’s traffic safety regulations, visit www.msha.gov

Sal's Corner

Tips to Combat Complacency

A recent open house at the quarry I work in proved to be an interesting learning experience for me. I always like watching people’s faces when they enter a surface quarry for the first time. Just about every visitor has a wide-eyed expression and is amazed at the size of our quarry operations. They want to learn how our machines work, see the processes that go on at the mine and experience just how big our vehicles and equipment really are. They pay close attention to what they learn because it’s new to them and they are genuinely interested.

But, the day-to-day operations at the quarry aren’t as exciting to employees as they are to visitors. In fact, the routine operations of the mine site can be monotonous and can cause a lack of attention at critical times, which in some cases can lead to a fatality. Being complacent doesn’t mean not caring about what you’re doing – it’s natural human reaction to repetitive processes. Being properly educated can greatly decrease the likelihood of an accident due to complacency.

Here are a few ways to avoid falling into the complacency trap:

  • Practice good habits at intersections, always looking twice and then a third time before proceeding.
  • Don’t anticipate moves or reactions from other operators or people on the ground.
  • Always look behind you before backing up. Don’t start to back up then look.

Being able to go home to friends and family every night is worth learning to stay alert in every situation.