Mining Technology spoke with Andrea Wilde, a HSE senior manager at Michels Corp, to discuss ongoing staff training and the importance of investing in personnel.

Please tell me about your company’s ethos and approach to operational safety?

As a corporation, we do our best to keep up with the industry standards and surpass them when we can. We strive to have the best safety ratings, all while still being efficient. We train our employees on an annual basis at a minimum, as well as when changes or new operations go into effect.

Going forward, what new developments could make the workplace safer in the future?

I think that finding more safety equipment that will work in various areas. Things such as communication that will work very far underground, without internet, or wireless networks nearby, things that track their readings, etc.

When it comes to safety, what is your greatest concern?

My greatest concern for safety comes from communication in general. I think too many people take for granted that others know the outcome or know how to do things, without proper communication.

Mines are arguably safer now than they have ever been but there is always room for improvement, what are the new threats?

In my opinion, the threat that is currently the worst is untrained people. You can train people over and over again, but what they understand, what they take away from it, and how they choose to relay that in the mines, is the largest hazard.

There have been huge advances in underground communications, air monitoring, proximity devices and self-rescuers in recent years.  To what extent have you adopted them and what are you plans in this regard?

We had adapted the air monitoring and self-rescuers already, as well as communication methods with greater capabilities. We will continue to update these things as the market expands, depending how quickly that happens and what the services industry does to keep up with the demands for these new items.

When taking a safety-first approach to mining or tunnelling, what are the main things every organisation should keep front of mind?

Don’t ever lose sight of the hazards directly in front of you. Many companies and personnel tend to look further and further into safety, often times overlooking the small things right in front of them. These often cause serious issues. Take a step back and look at the whole picture.

What are your plans for the year ahead for mining and tunnelling safety procedures and equipment?

We will continue to update our procedures and equipment as the market allows. It is not always the smartest thing to get the newest equipment on the market. Let it be tried and tested first, then jump in. Make sure the service can follow the equipment as well. Finding people to service new equipment that have the knowledge and expertise to do so, is not always easy and that can actually slow production and cause safety issues. So making sure all areas can run smoothly is very important.

As safety equipment becomes more expensive, how easy do you find it to access on-site repair and service support?

We often find that you will pay a little more for certain equipment or certain company’s services, but it comes full circle and pays for itself in the long run.

What are your most important areas for investment?

In my opinion, the most important investment is your people. We invest in them by training, but giving them the equipment that is the most up to date and effective for the work they are performing. If employees know they are being invested in and we care about them, they care about themselves and the job they are doing as well.

Some of the key mining and tunnelling suppliers have recently started selling online is this something you would take advantage of or do you still prefer to do business face to face/over the phone?

I think this really depends on the type of equipment. For new equipment, it always seems that it is nicer to see it in person, have someone explain ease of use, and be able to get a hands on view on it. This makes online business very tough for this market.