Health and safety in hazardous environments doesn't just have implications for the wellbeing of operatives, it can also have a serious impact on an operation's finances and viability.
Whether this is due to lost productivity or - in the worst cases - pay-outs after accidents or ill health, being able to identify the health and safety risks within industrial operations is essential.
Thankfully, industrial safety technologies are constantly evolving and improving along with the health and safety policies around harsh and hazardous operations. This means that employees are better protected from the dangers of their working environment.
In this blog, we take a closer look at how industrial safety technologies are evolving, as well as how they are improving health and safety within harsh and hazardous environments.
In any mining operation, uncharted areas must be investigated and assessed to ensure both structural integrity and complete employee safety.
These areas, however, might be gas-ridden and the use of standard gas detection equipment could be unfeasible if these areas are cramped and compact.
In these instances, mining operatives need a wireless and portable gas detection solution that can provide real-time analysis of the atmosphere, and connect to a mine-wide gas detection system, giving them complete control over operations.
Hauling standard equipment to these sites is time-consuming when balanced against the speed and capability of a wireless, portable gas detection solution, while advancements in wireless technology has meant the use of these portable systems is now much easier.
So, what exactly are the benefits of a truly wireless and portable gas detection solution?
The mining industry continues to treat safety as a prime concern - and rightly so as mining operators strive for a goal of zero fatalities and incidents.
This safety objective however is set against a background of profits being squeezed and the resultant drive to increase operational efficiency. Even if the mining sector has moved on since those days of Haldane and his canaries, one thing that has remained constant is the harsh and unforgiving environment of mining operations. The good news is that those challenging surroundings are being tamed by the application of innovative safety technology.
The complexity of a hazardous environment has always been one of the key hurdles when it comes to managing the cost of gas detection.
Ensuring operatives remain safe in often confined spaces and unpredictable environments is essential, but the cost of monitoring for multiple gases, and replacing sensors on a regular basis can be expensive and put pressure on operational budgets.
For organisations operating in environments where just one or two gases may be present, the total cost of ownership for equipment, maintenance and replacement parts can prove to be a significant drain on budgets.
Organisations operating in more complex environments however – those where workers could be exposed to up to five or six different gases – can quickly see their costs rocket with the need for higher levels of replacement cells and a support network to match.
In sectors under high degrees of regulation or operating within ever changing and chaotic political or economic circumstances the ability to maintain flexible budgets, invest in new and better equipment and remain viable is essential – especially within tight margins.
Those companies operating within industrial sectors like mining, manufacturing and petrochemicals understand this better than anyone and the challenge of providing effective equipment – both in terms of life cycle, productivity and health and safety is of the upmost importance.
Suppliers similarly face the challenge of competing for the business of these companies, and many are competing on the initial price when it comes to offering low costs up-front for monitoring devices, or ventilation and dust extraction.
Real-time monitoring and instant alerts of environmental changes are a critical element of modern hazardous industrial and mining operations.
New technology like mobile ‘connected’ devices, which can be used by individual operatives, or static equipment that can be hooked up to a wider network to report on changes or potential risks to safety, have undoubtedly improved the health and safety aspect of hazardous industries.
But with so many environmental elements to monitor and with the increasing need for separate monitoring equipment, the costs of providing 360-degree safety in hazardous environments can easily spiral and cause budgetary pressures on operations.
Improving efficiency and making effective use of finances is a continual focus across industrial sectors from mining to automation to construction to petrochemicals.
But these sectors are also often placed under high degrees of regulation and constantly have to deal with changing global economic circumstances, making budgets inflexible and investment in equipment and new technology much more difficult.
And it is not just the upfront costs of providing workforces with gas monitoring devices or installing ventilation and dust extraction in hazardous environments, the on-going costs associated with the replaceable consumables in this equipment – like filters, batteries and gas cells – which are often the most challenging aspects of budget pressures.
Mining safety is a complex issue. Manned and unmanned areas of the mine need to be constantly monitored for environmental changes and potential dangers, while uncharted areas of the mine need to be mapped out and evaluated for hazards before exploration can take place.
Both fixed and wireless detection systems carry benefits, but both can bring shortfalls when used in isolation.
When it comes to finding a holistic approach to mining safety, combining fixed and portable and wireless systems is always the best answer to providing a comprehensive level of security to operatives on the ground.
Glyn Jones, CEO of Trolex Group, discusses the benefits of having a diverse array of gas detection solutions to promote the most efficient, safe, mining operations possible.