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More Safety Benefits Come from Industry-MSHA Alliance

Monday, December 2, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Darrell Smith
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An alliance between the industrial minerals sub-sector and MSHA continues to pay dividends in miner health and safety.

In our January issue, we reported on several success stories that had arisen from an initiative by the Industrial Minerals Association-North America (IMA-NA) to address injuries at the association’s 350 member mines that were identified in MSHA’s database. The two organizations are cooperating through an alliance set up in 2004, and recent safety innovations at IMA-NA member companies are expected to be released as safety alerts by the agency this month.  

First and foremost, the data pointed to a need to address hand and finger safety.  However, it was clear other areas also required attention.  

They were ergonomics, health including exposure to diesel particulate matter, control of hazardous energy, contractor safety, and slips, trips and falls.  Other initiatives were also started in behavior modification and social media.

Ergonomics injuries have been reduced through two initiatives.  At Active Minerals International, overexertion and slip and fall hazards associated with setting the brakes on rail cars were tackled together after a tool was purchased that enabled workers to set the brakes by standing on the ground (see photo, p. 11).  Use of a "brake stick” prevents the need for the miner to complete the task by climbing a ladder on the side of the rail car and awkwardly placing one foot on a rung above the rail car wheel to reach the brake wheel.  

The device is now required at all company facilities.

Workers at AMCOL International’s Chattanooga blending plant faced a number of ergonomics issues during the process of unloading rail cars full of bentonite.  These included bending over and lying beneath the cars. The problems were eliminated by installing a hydraulic boot lift, which allows an employee standing near the car to raise and lower the lift using a control lever.  As a result, there has been a reduction in risk of ergonomics injuries and a 21Ž2 hour reduction in unloading time, which has increased productivity.  "It’s a significant improvement,” Plant Manager Dale Rogers said.    

After finding the design of fixed ladders at steep angles contributed to slips and falls, Fairmount Minerals simply eliminated most of them.  In their place the company installed a commercially available ladder featuring a unique tread design.  The new ladder virtually eliminates a design problem that prevents the bottom of the worker’s boot from making full contact with each stair step.  Use of the Lapeyre alternating tread stair results in significantly fewer missteps while allowing workers to face forward on descent.    

Active Minerals has taken its incorporation of safety values a step further by putting in place an injury and illness prevention program.  With the strong backing of senior management, the program cultivates a culture of safety and continuous improvement.  Implemented over more than three years, it has proven effective in cutting workers’ compensation claims by 93%, MSHA citations by 75% and MSHA penalties by 98%. The company has also experienced five zero citation inspections at its facilities.

In our earlier article, we noted how Unimin Corp. had set up a pilot program at eight facilities where gloves were made part of standard personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times in most areas of the plant.  The gloves were selected based on hazards associated with individual tasks, as opposed to selection based on job classification or position.   Employees had a major say in glove selection.  

After three months, the rate of hand injuries requiring treatment had dropped by 53% and the pilot was deemed a success.  As a result, the glove program went company-wide this summer.  In a follow-up company survey, more than three of every four employees agreed the use of gloves had prevented or reduced the severity of a hand incident.

To date, IMA-NA’s initiative has resulted in several videos on YouTube, five toolbox talks, numerous safety posters, a report from a world-class consultant on slips, trips and falls at a typical industrial minerals facility, and instructional sessions for the mining community.

Reprinted with the permission of Sharpe's Pointe on Mine Safety.