Since 2003, the International Labour Organization has set the 28 April as ‘World Day for Safety and Health at Work’. The annual international campaign aims to promote a safe, healthy work environment across all levels of employment among organisations big and small.
The World Coal Association published its commitment to safety in 2014, a document which outlines the best practices used to ensure the safety of people working within the coal industry. The WCA commitment states that:
“Nothing is more important to the coal industry than ensuring our people return home safely at the end of the working day. Safety in our operations is a value and is fundamental to the way we do all things. Our goal is the elimination of fatalities, injuries and workplace illnesses in our operations.”
The document highlights four key elements of safety in operations:
WCA Members are committed to working across the industry at a global level to share knowledge about safe work practices and to encourage all companies in the coal industry to set the same high standards for themselves.
The WCA has published a number of case studies from members, highlighting safety programmes at their operations.
Alpha Natural Resources operates the state-of-the-art Co, helping to raise the bar for safety training in the coal mining industry. The company opened the 136,000 square foot safety training facility in West Virginia in 2013, with a curriculum formed from consultation with miners that creates the most realistic possible learning environment – without any genuine risk. The clearest example of such facilities is the Mine Lab, which provides a realistic reproduction of a working coal mine and includes a ventilation system designed to recreate the air conditions and movements of a real mine.
Shenhua Group’s Coal Mine Safety Risk Control Management System was developed after a period of rapid expansion, over a time which saw the company acquire several other coal companies in China. The new acquisitions gave Shenhua’s portfolio more diversity but also greater risks and more complicated conditions, and they realised they had a responsibility to re-think their approach to safety. The system uses a five-step process to manage risks, which can include people, machines, environment and operations.
The State Administration of Coal Mine Safety and the China National Coal Association have adopted safety standards born from Shenhua’s system.
The risk management system in place at BHP Billiton’s Middelburg site is rigorous, with each senior leadership team member taking personal ownership for implementing and embedding the system. The idea, however, is simple; managers accountable for risks with the potential to cause fatalities should also be directly responsible for managing them. This means that risks are not managed from a distance, but are instead managed by on-site personnel. The leadership team at Middelburg are thoroughly trained in safety management, but are also close enough to the site and miners to recognise and understand the risks that are present to them.
The US National Mining Association’s (NMA) CORESafety initiative is a partnership led by the members of the NMA. It’s an approach to mining safety and health to prevent accidents before they happen using a management system that involves leadership, management and assurance. Its objective is to have zero fatalities and a 50 per cent reduction in mining’s injury rate within five years (0:50:5). Bruce Watzman, the NMA’s Senior Vice President for Regulatory Affairs and one of the principal authors of the CORESAfety initiative, gives an undate on the programme in this interview with Cornerstone magazine: Breaking through the Safety Plateau.