Industry contracts CSIR for mining behaviour and hygiene research

The SA Mine Health and Safety Council has contracted the CSIR for mining behaviour and hygiene research, towards setting up a centre of excellence.

The CSIR’s current approach to human factors is based on the definition of “environmental, organisational and job factors, and human and individual characteristics, which influence behaviour at work in a way that could affect health and safety.”

CSIR researcher Schu Schutte told Sheqafrica.com that they will address human factors by using a multi-disciplinary team representing these disciplines:
[] Ergonomics
[] Industrial physiology
[] Occupational hygiene
[] Psychology
[] Sociology
[] Human kinetics
[] Chemistry.

The semi-state technology research body, which in the past used to be one of the leading mining research organisations in the world, said it could also involve these related disciplines in the study:
[] Dieticians
[] Industrial Psychology
[] Industrial Sociology
[] Occupational safety.

CSIR to deliver mining centre of excellence
South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) was selected as a partner organisation to deliver the Mine Health and Safety Council’s Centre of Excellence.

The CSIR helps address national priorities through focused research and development for health; the natural environment; defence and security; energy; the built environment; and industry, with a specific focus on advanced manufacturing and mining.

“This multidisciplinary nature of the CSIR positions us to help solve the increasingly complex challenges of our time. Mining in particular can benefit from a multidisciplinary approach to its challenges,” says Executive Director for CSIR Natural Resources and the Environment, Prof May Hermanus.

“Instead of housing small cores of teams that work exclusively in the mining sector, which was the case with the CSIR Centre for Mining Innovation (CMI), we are opting to design teams from competence clusters across the organisation, based on the very specific challenges presented.

“Competencies that previously resided at CSIR CMI, such as mechanization and automation; seismology and geophysics; real-time monitoring and associated decision-support systems; and the know-how to address human factors to optimise safety and productivity have been integrated into the organisation for maximum impact.

The technology research body continues to develop fatigue, dust and noise management programmes for a variety of industries, including mining.

Dedicated occupational hygienists are working in one of the most advanced facilities for monitoring dust exposure in the workplace in South Africa.

The CSIR continues to address technologies that will enable mechanisation and automation for both underground and surface mining, including underground positioning, location and navigation, and the development of autonomous mining systems and related sensor networks.

Mine safety remains a core focus for the CSIR. One of the most recent monitoring systems is ‘GoafWarn’ – a sensor system that provides warning prior to the onset of a collapse in coal mines and warns miners who may be affected.

Geophysical techniques and seismological applications continue to allow various on-mine risk mitigation strategies and support for analysing natural hazards.

The CSIR also manages a fires and explosion testing, training and research and development (R&D) facility at Kloppersbos, north of Pretoria.

The CSIR said it was “very conscious of the fact that mining R&D does not take place in isolation. Mining activities are part of much larger social, economic, and natural systems.

“We therefore also undertake research that supports post-mining landscapes, decision-making processes and enterprise-creation development, particularly in areas such as water, air quality, and land use,” says Hermanus.

“What the sector needs are innovative, multidisciplinary solutions that will ensure the continuation of the economic and developmental contributions of the sector to the country, but also enhanced safety, reduced environmental impact and options for alternative land-use post-mining.

“The CSIR is now better positioned to deliver on this important mandate,” says Hermanus.

MHSC roles in industry and state
The MHSC is instrumental in the guidelines that the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) issue from time to time, many dealing with health and safety related issues.

Some industry-led pilot projects in recent years have ventured into mining behaviour by probing behavour-based safety (BBS) management systems, aiming to deliver what the industry and the state label a ‘zero harm approach’.

Meanwhile an updated guideline on Fatigue Management, and another on Incident Investigation, are in preparation by a tripartite forum advising the DMR.

Mining safety forums, such as the Bushveld Safety forum, also rely on research commissioned by the MHSA.

The CSIR also tendered for other aspects of the MHSC’s health and safety centre of excellence.

Prof May Hermanus, a former chief inspector of mines, and former mining sustainability academic, was appointed to the CSIR in February last year.

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Edmond Furter

Editor at Sheqafrica.com
Edmond Furter is the editor of Sheqafrica.com. He is a freelance technical journalist, and has won six journalism awards. He specialises in industrial, business, and cultural content in web, journal, and book formats.