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How to reduce mining health and safety incidents

An international mining body published its first good practice guide on preventing serious types of metallurgy and mining health and safety incidents.

The operational risk management approach in the International council on mining and metallurgy (ICMM) issued Health and safety critical control management: good practice guide, is to identify and manage acts, objects or systems, such as critical controls, required to prevent serious incidents, and to minimise the consequences of serious incidents.

The ICMM mining health and safety incident management guide proposes nine steps;
1. Plan and describe the scope of the project, actions, actors, and timescales.
2. Identify MUEs that need to be managed.
3. Identify controls for MUEs, existing and possible new controls. Prepare a bowtie diagram.
4. Identify critical controls for the MUE.
5. Define the critical controls’ objectives, performance requirements, and how performance is verified in practice.
6. List owners for each MUE, critical control, and verification activity. A verification and reporting plan is required for the status of each control.
7. Defined MUE verification and reporting plans, and an implementation strategy based on site-specific requirements.
8. Implement verification activities and report on the process. Define and report on the status of each critical control.
9. Maintain performance awareness of critical control and MUE owners. Following incidents, or if measure are under-performing, investigate and take action, or adapt the status of the controls.

Measure corporate maturity first
Supplements to the guide includes the CCM journey model, and a mapping tool to help organisations to assess the maturity of their management system, and readiness for adopting the control process.

Like other major initiatives, there are two measurement requirements for CCM:
• impact of the CCM initiative on the problem it is intended to address
• degree to which the initiative is functioning as expected.

Measure leading indicators
Indicators for measuring the impact of the CCM initiative can be lead and/or lag. Lag indicators are a common measure of occupational health and safety, though there is recognition of their limitations as a sole measure. CCM targets MUEs.

Therefore, the lag indicator could be the frequency of those major events and, possibly, the resultant consequences. Of course, MUEs are rare and, as such, weak measures.

A more effective lag indicator may be found in the frequency of high potential incidents related to the MUEs. These specific high-potential incidents can be captured, compared to pre-CCM frequency and tracked so the numbers can be trended.

Lead indicators for CCM should be easily found in the reports from critical control verification activities. This “dashboard” information summarises the performance status of the critical control versus defined expectations.

Well-defined and executed verification activities could yield information such as critical control performance percentages.

The guide was launched at a mining workshop hosted by the Chamber of Mines of South Africa, and will be presented at a series of regional workshops in Australia, South America, North America and Europe.

USA mines suffer marginally more fatal incidents per work hours, than South African mines, and Australian mines are marginally safer. Productivity and mechanisation may be factors in the rate. However injury and disease rates tell a different story.
USA mines suffer more fatal incidents per work hours, than South African mines, accodring to ICMM data. Productivity and mechanisation may be factors in the rate.

ICMM has a broader health and safety work program, including good practice in health and safety management guides based on continual improvement.

The critical control management (CMM) process is used in many hazardous and high risk industries. ICMM said the guide was “the first time this approach has been captured in a single document for the mining and metals industry”.

The guide notes that effective controls have to be sustained without slacking. “The risks are often well-known in mining and metallurgy, yet a lack of sufficient risk identification and control management, can lead to serious injury and fatalities of workers.

“We have a long way to go on our journey to the essential target of achieving zero injuries and fatalities”, said ICMM president Anthony Hodge.

Mining health and safety incident prevention leadership
“Implementation of the critical controls approach, requires senior executive support. This document sets a consolidated and rigorous approach among ICMM member companies and beyond, in related industries.”
Similar mining health and safety incident prevention best practice guide have been published by the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR); Chamber of Mines pilot projects on mobile equipment, dust exposure, fall of ground, dust explosion, personal protective equipment (PPE), and other high frequency and high severity risks; and the Safety in Mining Research Advisory Council (Simrac).

• See articles on corporate culture management and maturity surveys, by David Broadbent and others, on
• See articles on the interpretation and problems related to ‘zero harm’ slogans on

* See articles on measuring health and safety leading indicators and culture on

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