Generic Versus Site-Specific Orientations in Mining

11 May 2018

Mining orientations

The UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recently weighed in on the issue of generic Vs site-specific safety training. The takeaway is that employers need to consider the worker’s role and tailor their content around that. The HSE warned about the ineffectiveness of generic safety training in heavy industry, applying to construction, oil & gas, renewable energy and mining orientations.  At the Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) Summit on 21st March 2018, the HSE’s health and work portfolio manager Geoff Cox said: “Our research shows that simplistic training involving bending your knees to lift a cardboard box is just a waste of time and money.”

You might think that workers in heavy industry all face fairly similar hazards and that the training basics are shared across industries. However, there is a huge difference in the hazards faced in the mining industry, compared to the construction industry. Even with injury concerns common across various industries – such as MSD’s – the HSE’s research shows that the best training should be site-specific.  

“If you do need staff training, and there are many residual risks where this is the case, then this needs to be customised and professionally delivered. Any such training should be based on observations of current working practices, and should be informed by the views and experience of the workforce” – HSE’s health and work portfolio manager Geoff Cox.

Mining orientations

General Hazards That Should Be Covered in Mining Orientations

In Mining, 41% of all injuries in Canada are due to bodily reaction and exertion, making it the leading cause of injuries in the industry. You can prevent many of these injuries by having a comprehensive safety training programme in your mining orientations. The next most common injuries sustained by Canadian miners are contact with objects (30%), falls (13%), exposure to harmful substances and environments (8%) and transportation accidents (6%).

There are many specific hazards you need to be aware of in mining but the statistics show that it is more general risks that claim the greatest cost in human life. In the US, coal mining – which was previously at record lows in terms of injuries and fatalities – had 15 fatalities in 2017, compared to eight in 2016. This is partly due to an increase in coal mining last year but the causes of these fatalities (eight involved transport vehicles) are common across a number of industries.   

Specific Hazards That Should Be Covered in Mining Orientations


Chemicals are a common and indispensable part of the mining process. Chemicals are used to blast tunnels, extract minerals and cyanide is even used to separate gold from ore. If your workers are exposed to chemicals the effects are severe, with your workers at risk of burns, poisoning and respiratory problems. The best way to prevent injury is for as few workers as possible coming into contact with chemicals. Those that do should be fully trained in the correct procedures to follow and be provided with the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE). Chemicals should be safely secured whenever they are not being used so as to protect workers from harm.


From 2006 to 2011, mine explosions accounted for nearly one-quarter of mining-related deaths in the US. Mines are a dangerous cocktail of flammable material, sparks or sources of flame and enclosed spaces. Coal mines in particular are at risk from methane gas and coal dust, which if it catches alight can create a chain reaction with serious safety consequences. You need to have detection systems in place to catch if methane gas is at an unacceptable level, as well as having a ventilation system to dilute the gas with oxygen. Workers need to be trained to spread limestone powder – or rock dust – throughout a mine which absorbs the heat of an explosion and stop a chain reaction from occurring.

Heat Stress

Heat-related illnesses are one of the most common hazards mining workers encounter in the course of their work. Mines are often in environments with hot climates – Australia, many African countries – and are of course located underground where there is a lack of natural air and where work involves a lot of physical exertion. Heat stroke can occur if your temperature is over 105°F (40.5°C) and you may feel confused and faint. The person suffering from heat stroke should be moved to a cool and shady area, have their clothing loosened and soaked. They should be brought to a hospital right away.

It’s important that workers know what to do in the event of heat stroke because if left untreated, it can lead to brain damage and even death. Your workers should also receive training in their mining orientations on the correct ways to prevent heat-related illnesses. According to the Mine Health and Safety Association, you should drink water at least every 20 mins, obtain adequate salt, wear clothing that allows for evaporation and perspiration and take lunch and rest breaks in a cool area.

Mining orientations

Training in Mining

In Australia, the Queensland parliament recently introduced new legislation aimed at improving the health and safety of the state’s miners. The new bill includes:

  • Increased maximum penalties for breaches of safety and health obligations
  • Civil penalties for serious safety and health breaches
  • Increased powers to suspend or cancel statutory certificates of competency if holders fail to meet their obligations
  • Improved integration of contractor safety and health management in the one single safety and health management system (SHMS) at a mine
  • Coal mine ventilation officers will have to hold a certificate of competency through examination by the Board of Examiners and minerals ventilation officers will be a statutory position
  • A requirement for an SHMS for small opal or gem mines with five or more workers
  • Health surveillance of current and former mining workers included in the objects of the Acts, to reflect the importance of identifying occupational health issues early.

When  introducing the bill, the Mines and Energy Minister Dr Anthony Lynham pointed out that training has been one of the major failings in mining safety in recent years. “The Department’s mines inspectorate through their investigations have found that one of the causes of an increase in risk is due to contractors not having a full understanding of the SHMS on the mining site,’’ Dr Lynham said.

The expert consensus now advises that you should tailor all aspects of safety training in mining orientations within the context of a worker’s role and industry. There is no reason not to provide the best safety training, given that online systems now exist that allow for easy customization depending on these factors. This allows you to include information on generic risks (falls, manual handling, vehicle safety) along with site-specific content, all within the appropriate context in mining orientations, for maximum learner retention.


GoContractor’s online system allows you to include all the health and safety information you want to include in your mining orientation in one easy to use platform. Common and mining-specific hazards can be placed within the context of a worker’s occupation and their duties on-site so workers get maximum benefit from their training. There’s no point using off the shelf presentations anymore when you can give your workers the best onboarding experience and keep them safe with a customizable platform that saves you time and money and allows your workers to get started the moment they arrive on-site.

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Jenny Snook

Jenny Snook is content executive at GoContractor with the job of researching the latest health and safety trends in the heavy industry. Her past-experience includes the research of large museum collections such as the Louth County Museum, many from the industrial age.

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