COVID-19: Emergency Response & Mining

 Author: Peter Hatswell

 

Due to the impact of  COVID-19, the push on working from home, social distancing and reduced staffing levels on mine sites,  is your emergency response capability facing elevated risks?

 

 

Risk Response + Rescue has identified some key questions to consider:

 

Emergency Preparedness 

 


Is all your Emergency Response equipment maintained and in a state of operational readiness should an emergency occur? 

Do you have enough trained Emergency Responders on-site/on-call?

 

How will restricted travel, social-distancing regulations and procedures affect any mutual assistance schemes your operation has in place?

 

How would your mine’s Incident Management Team conduct operations at your site, while still abiding by social distancing regulations and procedures?

 

With staff working remotely, would you have enough resources to man your site Incident Management Team and mitigate a protracted incident?

 

Are there enough emergency supplies on-site?

 

Do you have the assets, supply chain and essential equipment required during an emergency?

 

Incident Scenario:

 

Level 1 – Moderate incident requiring a mine staged withdrawal or partial evacuation but handled by the on shift/on-call Emergency Response Team.

 

Are staffing levels of emergency responders, both on-shift or on-call adequate to handle moderate incidents?  How will you provide sufficient numbers of on-scene responders without breaking established social distancing protocols, or elevating the risk of virus transmission across your response team members?

 

 Level 2 – Major incident requiring a full mine evacuation and IMT activation but controlled and handled by the entire mine on shift /on-call Emergency Response Team members.

 

Similar issues as a Level 1 incident, but requiring the use and turnaround of all emergency response equipment and responders. Including appropriate sanitisation and equipment such as breathing apparatus, which otherwise may present an elevated risk of cross-infection between response team members, especially if closed-circuit breathing apparatus is required.

Would your social distancing protocols and procedures be adequate for this type of response?

 

Level 3 – Major incident requiring a full mine evacuation, IMT activation, and off-site assistance activation of mutual assistance schemes and emergency services, such as Police, Fire and Ambulance.

 

Similar issues to Level 1 and  Level 2 incidents, with the additional challenges of off-site responders entering the site, Incident Management Team personnel numbers, IMT room space required for social distance requirements, let alone security and media implications.

 

Risk, Response and Rescue’s checklist of simple measures you can put in place.

 

  • Ensure your Emergency Response area is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, along with all Emergency Response Equipment, including vehicles.
  • Test and maintain all emergency response equipment. Ensure all equipment is fit for use as a part of this process.
  • Evaluate the number of Emergency Responders on-site and on-call and develop rosters to ensure adequate numbers of responders for safe and efficient emergency response crew numbers, without grouping excess personnel in areas of the site such as Rescue Response rooms or First Aid Stations.
  • Develop procedures with maximum crew numbers of emergency responders being tasked for certain incidents.
  • Consider using Tagboards to limit the numbers of personnel on-site, and in high-risk areas, such as Emergency Response and Incident Management Rooms.
  • If mutual assistance schemes are in place with neighboring mines, develop, adapt and coordinate staged response procedures for elevated risk.
  • Contact your local Emergency Services to develop plans and allocate staging areas to locate arriving resources and personnel. Isolate these responders in an area of close proximity on-site, but with regard to social distancing. Have dedicated communication methods in place.
  • Examine and test the need for additional communication resources for your Emergency Response Teams, as fewer responder numbers will require better communication methods, such as additional radio resources for communication with isolated backup response team members in staging areas, Incident Management Teams, and Emergency Services.

 

This is a time to think about how we handle Emergency Response on mine sites, as we are fighting this battle with one hand tied behind our back.

 

Throwing additional labour and resources at the problem isn’t the solution. Implementing well thought out plans and procedures to maintain efficiency and effective response procedures whilst utilising fewer emergency responders, and minimising risk and exposure to your people is the key objective.

 

A challenge, yes!  Impossible, no!

 

RR+R has the expertise and resources to develop or adapt your Emergency Response plans, regardless of size.