When working underground, it is important to take safety measures to avoid injuries and loss of lives. Underground workers are exposed to a hazardous environment; therefore, measures have to be taken to mitigate the dangers during work. Some of the hazards include exposure to air contaminants, explosion, fire, reduced light and natural ventilation, and limited egress and access.
Employees should be educated properly to know and avoid the dangers associated with this industry. The different topics to ensure safety include personal and mechanical protective equipment, ventilation and illumination, air monitoring, flood control, communications, fire prevention, explosives protection and emergency procedures, check-in and checkout procedures, and evacuation plans.
Further safety measures to keep in mind include the below.
Access and Egress
One of the safety measures for the job site is access and egress. The company should provide safe access and egress on all the workstations. Moreover, the employer should avert unauthorized entry underground. The unused or completed sections of the work area should be barricaded. Any unused opening should be covered, posted with warning signs, or fenced off.
Proper Check-in/Out Procedure
There should be a check-in and check-out procedure whereby the above-ground personnel have an accurate number of workers underground just in case of an emergency. A designated person should be above ground whenever there are workers underground. The workers will also help to call for immediate help just in case of any issues.
Air monitoring is a standard that should be met to establish proper ventilation and quantitative measurements of any potential hazardous gas. A competent person should be designated to do all the air control. The underground environment has to be tested regularly for hydrogen sulfide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, other toxic gases, vapors, fumes, dusts, and mists to suppress any risks of exposure. The atmosphere has to be tested of oxygen to ensure the right percentage of oxygen is available in the work area.
Ventilation is another thing to consider where fresh air must be supplied in an adequate amount in order to prevent harmful or dangerous accumulation of gases, dusts, mists, fumes or vapors. In the case where natural ventilation is insufficient, the employer should introduce mechanical ventilation with reversible airflow. The velocity of airflow needs to be increased in case drilling or blasting is being performed as these works cause fumes, dust, vapors, etc. During gassy operations, ventilation systems should have controls positioned above ground to ensure reverse airflow.
There should be proper illumination in all the underground operation. However, if explosives are being handled, only acceptable portable lighting equipment should be used for any underground heading.
Fire Prevention and Control
When working underground, there should be fire prevention and control measures. The employer should prohibit open fires and flames in all the underground operations except for hot work procedures. Workers should smoke in designated areas that are free of explosion hazards and fire. There should be post signs warning people about open flames and smoking where these dangers exist.
There are also preventive measures to control fire. The hose or pipe system used to move fuel should remain empty except when in use. It is also dangerous to use, store or carry gasoline underground.
Gases such as liquefied petroleum, acetylene can be used only for hot work activities. Spills and leaks of combustible or flammable fluids should be dried immediately.
Other fire prevention measures include fire-resistant hydraulic fluids, fire-resistant barriers, location and storage of flammable and combustible materials near access or openings to underground operations, appropriate lighting fixtures, proper electrical installations, fire extinguishers and others.
During hot work activities such as welding, only the necessary amount of fuel gas cylinders needed for the operation should be underground. When the job is complete, remove all the gas and oxygen cylinders.
Crane and Hoist Management
When using cranes and hoists, proper procedures are necessary when lowering and raising loads. When moving loads in the shaft there should be a flashing warning light to warn the workers. The materials or tools should be stacked properly to prevent the load from falling, sagging, or shifting into the shaft.
When using hoists, ensure proper load connections, cage and skips that cannot disengage from the force of hoist vibration, pull, impact or misalignment. Maintain a spin-type connection and ensure that all the wire rope wedge sockets are properly seated.
Safety Never Ends
Despite the above safety measures being put into place, emergencies may arise. The site should be easily accessible by rescue teams. The emergency response team should be on-site or within a short distance to the site. Due to the demanding nature of managing the health and safety of the workforce, a qualified coordinator should be on-duty at all times. To help your health and safety managers better organize and coordinate their efforts to protect your work force you can get specialized software from sites such as eCompliance.com.
Edrick Hypolite, the writer, manages the safety of his fellow workers at a small construction company based out of the pacific northwest. He sometimes writes about things he has learned to help others in the field get a better handle on their jobs. If you are interested in learning more about Edrick you can visit him through Google+.
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