MSHA weighs in on spring start-up

By |  March 2, 2021

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Safety professionals from the Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) participate each year in Spring Thaw training workshops to increase awareness of mining hazards, improve hazard correction, and encourage safe work practices. P&Q reached out to MSHA with three questions related to spring start-up, and a department spokesperson offered this reply:

Is spring historically a time when safety becomes a bigger issue (versus other seasons for producers)? If yes, why is this the case and what can be done to mitigate this?

Safety and health hazards can and do appear at mines during all seasons of the year. However, maintenance and repair tasks often occur during spring start-up at seasonal mines.

There are two facts to consider in spring: One, some intermittently operated mines that shut down in the winter resume production, and new or inexperienced employees – or experienced employees who haven’t been actively engaged in mine safety processes while the mine was shut down – may not be as intently focused on hazards as they should be. Then, there’s the physical consideration. As the land thaws, it may lead to weakness or instability.

MSHA routinely participates in annual Spring Thaw safety meetings that are held across the country. MSHA also discusses health and safety, including maintenance and repair safety, with miners and mine operators during every mine visit. And we regularly distribute safety and health alerts to the mining industry to decrease mining injuries and illnesses.

Do you currently notice any safety hazard trends within mine sites that are potentially related to spring start-up?

Generally, safe spring start-ups begin by ensuring an adequate lockout/tagout program is utilized during repair and maintenance tasks; that fall protection is worn where a fall-of-person hazard exists; ensuring moving machine parts are guarded before start-up; thoroughly examining equipment prior to operation; and by following established safe start-up procedures.

What areas do you typically advise mine operators to watch when they’re restarting or ramping up operations in the spring?

Make sure their miners are adequately trained, including all tasks associated with start-up procedures, and follow the safe start-up tips discussed in the previous answer. 

 Featured photo: P&Q Staff

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