Report: APP CMHS Project 4

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2.5.3. Risk Assessment

A NIOSH sponsored study was undertaken to evaluate the use of the (Major Hazard Risk Assessment (MHRA) technique to develop potential improvements in the way a range of mining activities are managed. Mining activities such as pillar extraction and mining under deep cover, spontaneous combustion, water inundation and various fire scenarios were considered in this broad based project. The MHRA’s strength lies in its capacity to systematically evaluate complex mining processes and their associated hazards that present significant consequence to the operation. A list of potential unwanted events is developed and risk ranked. The mining operation’s most knowledgeable personnel then focus on identifying a list of all existing prevention controls and recovery measures associated with each high risk potential unwanted event. During this process new ideas are identified and presented to mine management in the form of an Action Plan that should be evaluated further.

A significant advantage of the MHRA technique is the listing of the mine’s prevention controls and recovery measures. These lists represent a partial inventory of Best Practices for deep cover retreat mining. The MHRA exercise demonstrates the value of focusing an operation’s attention on specific hazards. It also helps to reinforce the existing prevention controls and recovery measures used by the mining operation and brain-storm new ideas that might help to lower the risk.

A significant limitation of the MHRA technique centres on its inability to determine how well controls are actually applied. For example, the controls identified often consist of procedures that rely on personnel skills and training. These kinds of controls often require administrative procedures and clear work processes. They have the potential for significant human error and can be only marginally effective in reducing risks. In these cases, regular audits and reviews are needed to provide assurances to mine management that the controls are being applied to some operational standard. There is a critical requirement to consider the hierarchy of control in developing preventative measures – such as engineering and design controls.

Clearly, the MHRA exercise alone will not assure the risks are mitigated. It is recommended that all the actions defined by the MHRA process be incorporated into some kind of Risk Management Plan (RMP). The RMP should be a component of the mine’s overall safety and health management system. It should represent a management process by which hazards are identified and risks are continually and systematically assessed, and either eliminated or controlled, from design through to abandonment of the mining section. In practice, all RMP’s should be linked to the mines overall RMP for all known major hazards.

A RMP would only be adequate if individuals who have roles relating to the outlined activities have the responsibility and authority to carry out these actions. It is also important to note that mine management has the overall responsibility, implementation, and coordination for the actions described above. As is the case with all safety and health management systems, communications of the plan to relevant parts of the workforce will help to ensure that all personnel with responsibilities under the plan are informed. This requires targeted, regularly scheduled, training. It also requires that the plan be monitored and some kind of audit process will be established.

Mining operations benefit from activities that help them focus on potential unwanted events. Many low probability events rarely happen, but when they do, they can have significant consequences. Discussing all existing prevention controls and recovery measures helps to re-focus the operation, making sure that all the necessary systems are being applied to monitor and audit these most important actions. Because it is difficult to quantify the impact of actions in the reduction of risk, the most proactive Risk Management Plans continually apply more robust prevention controls. They also apply additional measures that will help them quickly recovery from these events with little consequence to the mining operations and its miners. The MHRA process shows potential in helping to lessen risk associated with deep cover pillar retreat mining operations.

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