A sobering set of conclusions from a volume called Safety Guidelines for Mineral Exploration in Western Canada published by AMEBC.
Twenty-three years of data compiled by the Health & Safety Committee focuses attention on the most common causes of exploration accidents. The following observations reflect this experience and are provided for the benefit of present and future exploration personnel.
• Travel-related accidents produce the majority of fatalities with almost 90% resulting from helicopter, canoe and vehicle-related accidents. In terms of miles travelled, canoe-related fatalities are so abnormally high that this mode of transportation for exploration personnel should be discouraged or critically evaluated before being undertaken.
• With improved road access to many exploration areas, there is a greater potential for vehicle accidents; however, both fixed-wing and rotary-wing transportation will continue as essential means of transportation for exploration personnel.
• Although unsubstantiated, there is evidence that early exploration personnel suffered fewer lost workday accidents and fatalities because of their self-reliance. Development of this attribute, which could be life-saving, should be encouraged in all personnel.
• Not surprisingly, almost 50% of lost workdays are caused by slips and falls. These data are consistent with mountaineering accidents in Canada and the United States and are a direct reflection of the amount of time personnel are exposed to traversing rough terrain.These statistics are unlikely to change significantly with time, but can be reduced by individuals paying greater attention to ability and fatigue limitations, steep terrain, proper footwear, and the many hazards that can be expected.
• Back-related injuries, which appear to be on an increase, are the third highest cause of lost workday accidents. Most of these accidents are caused by improper lifting or pushing of heavy objects and directly reflect carelessness by the victim who could, as a consequence, suffer a lifelong back problem.
• As a means of maintaining an adequate focus on safety procedures, even the smallest projects should plan safety meetings at least once a week during the field season.
This is an excellent volume; it should be in every backpack and should be read again and again. I disagree, however, with the conclusion “plan safety meetings at least once a week during the field season.” I believe it should read: “Hold a safety meeting every day before the start of work.”
Costly and irritating as it may be to hold a tailgate safety meeting every day before work, I know, on the basis of personal experience, that this is a necessary and absolute part of a safe work site. At such meetings the participants should discuss what will be done that day and ask the questions:
- Is the work approach safe
- What can be done to improve work practices to enhance work safety
- What did we learn yesterday that points us to a safer way of working.
These and many other simple questions, invariably lead to more and more insightful questions, answers, and practices. Never forget controlling incidents is the cheapest and easiest way of eliminating workplace deaths. I vaguely recall that for every ten incidents there is an accident, for every ten accidents there is a death. Hence eliminate incidents and eliminate workplace death. I write more on this topic at this link. Good workplace safety habits!