Safety training is an integral part of a number of different jobs in a variety of fields like healthcare, the oil and gas industry and forestry, to name a few. Safety training is also a paramount concern in the mining industry, where one wrong move can cost the lives of dozens of miners and those working above ground, or cause a disastrous natural gas leak or explosion.
Mining is one of the oldest professions on earth and dates back to some of the earliest civilizations, like the Egyptian and Mayan empires, and yet the resource industry still does not have global safety standards.
We’ve all seen just how dangerous underground mining can be. In 2010, Chile made worldwide headlines when 33 miners were trapped underground for 69 days. The men were freed after their two month long ordeal, but many others have not been so lucky.
One of the most dangerous places for mining is the African nation of Congo. Nearly two million people in that region depend on small-scale, artisanal mining to provide daily necessities for themselves and their families. During the last five years, over 150 occupational health and safety incidents have been reported to the Congo’s only internationally recognized accountability agency.
In 2014, a leading international development organization and a global mobile technology company partnered to improve health and safety throughout Congolese mines. “We are actively working on the ground to make a difference, training artisanal miners and building a safety culture among workers, site owners and financiers,” wrote Mark Viso of Devex.
The merger of the tech sector and the mining industry is helping to foster revolutionary changes across the mining sector. Mobile technologies can relay immediate safety updates and concerns, and there’s little doubt that mobile technology will continue to increase the level of safety in the resource industry.
In 2011, Caterpillar introduced new software called Intelligent Mine Management to help manage the safety of mines. “Each of the capability sets has its own functionality and feature set, but they are designed to be flexible and scalable,” Said Caterpillar’s commercial manager Annette Slyman. “Each mine can define its own needs, and add capability sets as required.”
Lisa Overholt, a Toronto-based business professional with more than a decade of experience in instructional design and training, believes the merger of the tech and mining sectors is positive news when it comes to health and safety training. “Not only do these technologies enhance the safety of the environment inside the mine,” Lisa Overholt comments. “[These technologies] also offer an interactive tool that provides exact and regularly updated locations of dangerous or problematic areas [within the mine site].”
While technological advances are always exciting, Lisa Overholt also adds a caveat to her enthusiasm. She points out that technology will not replace instructor-led training initiatives, especially when it comes to implementing effective mine safety standards. “These new technologies are meant to compliment rigorous training, not replace it,” she adds.
Health and safety training is not only a preventative measure — it’s also an educational opportunity. “Informing new miners on work related injuries, how to report accidents and how to monitor their own health inside and outside of the mine is also key,” Overholt adds.
Technology aids the exploration, feasibility and production stages of mines, and yes, technology can also make mining a safer industry. But, as executive Lisa Overholt points out, nothing compares to a traditional health and safety training program.