Worker safety is a priority for most companies for a variety of reasons. Yet how does one achieve it with mining and its many inherent dangers, like having thousands of tons of earth mere feet above the miners? 

The answer lies in mining safety technology. Ranging from the use of robots to networks, all are cutting-edge tech to keeping workers safe and sound in the earth’s bowels.  

Dangers of Mining

Mining is a profitable business, especially for iron and copper ores. But it’s also dangerous, with reports indicating 15,000 miners or more are killed each year across the globe.     

The figures are considerably less in the US. Last year, fatalities in mining were 29 due to work-related accidents. On the other hand, they’re costly: between 2008 – 2017, mining companies shelled out $1.42 million per fatality. Those figures have since increased due to inflation, insurance, etc. 

Miners too close to a blast area, the use of a too powerful charge, and premature and misfired explosions are the leading causes of death in many mining operations. 

These figures do not include those affected by associated conditions like coal mine dust lung diseases, which are seeing an increase in deaths.

What is Mining Safety?

Mining safety can be simply defined as any process or practice ensuring the safety and well-being of the miners. Safety rules and regulations from how the workers act on the job to emergency plans are obvious examples. Others are the equipment they use like industrial tablets and their ability to survive the hostile work conditions. 

Some current safe mining practices include: 

Hazard communication

Mining work has a lot of hazards (example: a covered hole or unsafe tunnel). So managers and supervisors need to keep workers appraised of them. 

Signage and labels are a few examples. Anyone in the area should be able to see them quickly, and they need to give it a wide berth. 

Another example is open communication. Workers should always feel comfortable reporting safety concerns with the confidence that it’ll be taken care of (“safety culture”). 

Ensure plenty of ventilation

As mentioned above about coal mine dust lung diseases, mines are hazardous to miners’ lungs. Dust and debris are constantly in the air around a mine. To minimize their effects, mining companies try to: 

  • Ventilate the area, enclosure, or confinement of the affected area.
  • Provide mining safety technology like personal protective equipment. These can range from a face mask to ventilators.
  • Educate workers about the respiratory risks of each area of the mine as well safety measures.   

Heat stress 

Miners are exceedingly susceptible to heat stress, or all the heat inflicted on them from natural and man-made sources. This is unsurprising, given they work in enclosed areas lacking natural airflow, do physically exhausting work, and use heavy machinery. All these and more generate and retain heat, making the workplace an oven or hotter. 

Workers should be given plenty of breaks and places to cool off. Obviously, they should have plenty of water. Everyone should know the signs of heat stress, like heat rashes, and what emergency actions to take if heat stress sets in. 

Other current safety practices in mining:  

  • Cave-In Potentials
  • Continued Professional Training and Refreshers
  • Dust Hazards
  • Electrical Safety
  • Equipment Upkeep Procedures
  • Fire Risks
  • Handling Vibration and Noise Levels
  • Importance of Ventilation
  • Importance of Vision and Visibility
  • Minimizing Slips and Falls
  • Rock Burst Prevention Measures
  • Safe Lifting Practices
  • Sealing Old Shafts

Three Technologies Answering Mining Safety Concerns

Technology – specifically, mining safety technology – seems to be the answer for companies when dealing with worker safety. This is unsurprising, as devices have proven instrumental in solving issues from the challenge of miner training to going green

Automating hazards away with robots

You can’t have hazards harming employees if there are no employees there in the first place. That’s part of the thinking for increased automation in the sector:

  • Driverless trucks that go in and out of the mine 24/7. 
  • Drones to scout new and potentially dangerous fields and tunnels. 
  • Mine inspection robots that work autonomously in the most unsafe places. 

These automated machines can handle the most dangerous tasks so that if something goes wrong, no miners will be endangered, harmed, or worse. As a side benefit, miners will have more time to focus on their work, helping to reduce accidents due to oversights and pressure on their safety. 


Most people think of wearables for the consumer market. Fitness trackers and smartwatches are a couple of examples. Others like healthcare wearables track patients and their illnesses. 

Wearables, though, can also be used in mining. Smart helmets and vests can monitor miners’ health signals, for example, heart rate, body temperature, and perspiration. This can aid in preventing heat stress (see above). 

RFID-based transponders can monitor the miner’s location and movement within the mine. They can be configured to alert them if they’re entering a hazardous area like a cave-in. Rescue parties can use their wearables to track them down if necessary. 

Internet of Things 

Conventional hazard-monitoring systems in mining range from gas and smoke detectors to sensors monitoring underground mine stability. While valuable, they have a glaring flaw. 

All work separately. This means workers in other parts of the mine may not be aware when they activate, which could result in deadly consequences.  

Internet of Things (IoT) connects and communicates all applicable devices in its network. This allows them to send information in real-time to all smartphones, industrial tablets, and even mining safety technology like the earlier mentioned sensors.

The advantages are many. Smart sensors can detect, for example, poisonous gasses filling an area before they’re noticeable or even dangerous to the workers. An alert will be sounded, notifying the workers to evacuate safely and promptly.

IoT can be applied to help in equipment maintenance. This helps eliminate unnecessary repairs as the equipment is only fixed when needed, not on an unnecessary timetable. 

This “need-based” approach, when combined with predictive analytics, can reduce costly downtime while improving worker safety. 

Closing Thoughts

Mining is a dangerous occupation, resulting in the deaths of thousands worldwide. While fatalities are considerably less in the US, they still happen despite current mining safety procedures and equipment. Companies are turning to mine safety technologies like automation and Internet of Things to reduce such tragedies further.  

Are you interested in such technologies? Contact an expert here at Cybernet. They’ll be happy to go over equipment such as industrial computers and how they work effectively with such safety devices. 

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