Mine Safety

I had to pause before I wrote this article? and think about my own actions on various jobs over the years. Which of us has not taken risk on the job, things that at the time we thought we could do and save time. I shudder when I think of some of the things I have done, the chances I took, the hazards I ignored and yet somehow I survived them. Blind luck! That is the only reason I am here today.

Today I might be over-educated on the safety front (according to my friends and family), but I also now realize fully the need for those very safety classes I have taken, and all the stuff the safety guy made me listen to while rolling my eyes at the the rest of my crew while he droned on. But I was also taught safety from another school, one that we have all attended and hopefully paid attention to, that of my family.

Somewhere, some how, something they said penetrated my somewhat thick skull and here I stand, battered and bruised but somehow alive because of something one of them said to me one day. And what was that little gem, that piece of info that kept me alive? Well, I am not going to tell you (at least not directly), because that gem is a little different for each of us, what kept me alive may not keep you alive, and vice versa. My family has been involved in mining for generations and while I have not followed directly in there footsteps, here are some of the lesson my family taught me

My dad is big on electrical safety, he was once working in a mine for Falconbridge in the Queen Charlottes when he literally got blown out of his boots. My dad?s experience has always taught me to be careful around electricity. Watch out for power lines and lock out equipment when doing maintenance, this is a good lessons to have learned from my dad.

My Uncle Marcel, (I think he worked for Falconbridge as well) he often talked about working around highwalls and recognizing hazards there. He firmly believes that all employees should be trained in highwall hazard recognition. He knows that you should take a good look before work around a highwall, and keep a close eye on the wall, especially if the weather is changing. He often talked about watching for loose ground and large rocks, and keep a close eye out for cracking on the wall as well. Bright guy, my uncle, you should see his pictures of the day he missed the signs and the damage to his shovel, quite spectacular and amazing that he walked away. Uncle Marcel can also go on sometimes, but he recommends that loose material be scaled prior before performing work around the wall and make sure the wall height is within the reach of the bucket. Oh yeah, don?t forget to position the shovel and trucks so that the shovel cab swings away from the wall when loading. Darn, Uncle Marcel sure is long winded huh?

My Uncle Mike, ( he worked for Cominco & Nerco) he likes driving, whether on the road or around the mine, driving was his thing. He taught me that you should always set the proper brakes and always turn the wheels into the rib, the berm, or in the direction of the highwall face. He told me that you should lower the bucket or blade to the ground and never, never, never try jumping back in the cab to regain control of a runaway vehicle (apparently he tried this once and it did not work out well)!

My Uncle Don, now he is an interesting character, he once mailed away for a license to be a priest in the Universal Church (whatever that is), and he could sell a icebox to an Eskimo. However even he had some advice here as well, now I can?t vouch for his actually working in a mine but his dad (my grandfather did for years & years) so some of it might have rubbed off and he did have these good gems to add.

Always assume that the operator of whatever equipment is around cannot see you and stay out of the way. Don?t make it a practice to lean against or rest on equipment,it is not always your friend. Do not get between two pieces of mobile equipment they could crush you. He really recommends keeping body parts inside the cab of the equipment you are operating (including your fingers, even the middle one). He also told me that when pulling cables or chains always consider the fact that they could break or pull apart so stay out of pinch points and avoid the direction the cable or chain would fly if it broke.

Now I should mention here that my father is the 11th of 23 kids, so I could go on with stories from lessons from the clan, but I won?t! Rather I will leave you with this final comment from my cousin Sue (my Aunt Paulette?s daughter and a paramedic at a mine in Timmins) ?watch for the possible causes of accidents and stay alert at all times and don?t get in too big a hurry and forget about safety.

So stay safe and I will talk to you again next week.