Why is drop prevention risk assessment important?
Everyone knows objects get dropped on worksites, there is nothing radical about that. What people don’t sometimes appreciate is the level of risk. In Australia, mining has the third highest fatality rate of any industry (4.4 fatalities per 100,000 workers in 2015), and in less well-documented areas like India the fatality rate is even higher.
A lot of these fatalities come from dropped objects. It’s worth trying to address this and work out just how big the risk is and where it comes from. At the end of the day, safety should be a priority in any industry and it should come as no surprise that addressing safety issues early on can actually save money, long-term, for companies. That’s before even thinking about reputation too; it doesn’t look good for a mining company if people are getting injured and equipment damaged from falling objects.
What sorts of risks from dropped objects are there in the mining industry, and how frequent is this type of incident?
Dropped object risks come from all sorts of areas: it’s not just a matter of dropped tools. We’re talking about sites characterized by a lot of activity, wear and tear, corrosion and vibration, where all sorts of things can come loose or fall, whether light fittings or rocks objects falling off conveyer belts. The risks are largely personal injury but are also financial: if a piece of equipment gets damaged it will need replacing. That’s a pretty strong incentive for companies to address these risks.
In terms of frequency, here in Australia we’re looking at around 18% of compensation claims coming from workers being hit by moving objects, but those are just the claims, the frequency is likely higher. 28% of casualties come from such incidents, too. As I said earlier, that’s just Australia: some industries don’t keep statistics, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find other countries report comparable rates. That’s a lot of accidents that could be prevented with adequate safety measures.
What would you advise a mining company that is looking at improving its safety measures regarding dropped object risks?
Take a proactive approach. It’s a lot easier and cheaper to address these risks during the installation or maintenance phases by adding barriers to conveyer belts and adding nets to light fittings. If companies think about giving workers safety pouches for personal equipment right from the start, a lot of accidents can be avoided. Things are getting safer: the fatality rate is going down. But companies shouldn’t get complacent.
There are safety mechanisms available: it’s up to the companies to install them. Some of them are remarkably simple yet effective: for instance, Dropsafe’s barriers (used to stop objects falling off exposed walkways) are designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane and to last for at least five years in extreme UV. The problem is one that companies perhaps don’t consider during the installation phase, yet this type of safety measure saves lives and money: it’s a lot more efficient to add barriers right from the start rather than waiting for an accident and then thinking, “Should we be safer?” when they should have mitigated these risks from the start.
Do you think that mining companies are becoming more conscious of safety issues such as this, and if so what is driving it?
I think so, yes. Safety measures are improving across the industry and there is a niche for companies like Dropsafe that maybe didn’t exist so much in the past. It’s a positive change: companies should work for their employees’ safety, and they should feel safe whilst in the workplace
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
At Dropsafe we’re definitely seeing the focus on preventing dropped objects now expanding beyond the mining and O&G industries we’ve historically serviced. It’s now becoming a focal point for HSE professionals in numerous industries, from refineries and chemical plants, to power plants, marine and aviation.
It is great to see the initiative take place amongst many operators as we become more aware of the dangers in the workplace when it comes to the issue of Dropped and Falling objects. There are solutions available to mitigate these risks and to create a safer workplace by showing initiative and speaking up about the problems that are among us on a daily basis. Implementing the Dropsafe Barrier or Nets around lights and other fixtures is a great way to start the implementation process of helping to create a solution and safer workplace in such arduous industries.
Dropsafe interview with Mike Rice, Dropsafe, and Ailbhe Goodbody, Mining Magazine.