In all things safety first!
AEL Aims for Exemplary Safety - In-house and On site

As a major player in mining and explosives arenas, it has become one of AEL Mining Services' goals to achieve exemplary performance in the areas of health and safety. The company achieves this by ensuring that development and manufacturing processes, storage principles, distribution frameworks and testing protocols all receive the attention they deserve.

This, in addition to educating staffers and customers around the correct procedures involved in destroying waste materials and by-products and in the actual use of explosives, will ultimately help the company achieve its objectives.

“It is very important to remember that although many safety practices, principles and basics are in place, there is still the possibility that careless behaviour could lead to an unsafe working environment both in-house and on site,” says Henry Merrick, Group Safety and Health manager at AEL Mining Services.

“One example of dangerous behaviour that could be avoided is the reportedly increasing frequency of incidents occurring where explosives-related equipment contaminated with explosives or explosives ingredients is unthinkingly sent to workshops, at times in highly populated areas, for maintenance purposes.

“Complacency, lack of education or training, lack of appreciation of the hazards associated with this type of activity and lack of supervision can all be attributed to this type of thoughtlessness as staffers are not entirely clear about the dangers associated with dropping 'armed' explosives off without clearing them first.”

Merrick says, "The types of equipment that could be contaminated include magazines, mobile manufacturing units (MMUs), explosives pumps, and pipe work, hoses and explosives transport vehicles.”

The first step managers should take to avoid these highly volatile scenarios includes educating all staffers working in the explosive environment as to the risks and hazards they are exposed to. While AEL is continuously improving the safety of its product offering, it is imperative that no lives are lost through sheer ignorance.

The introduction of the Hot Hole Monitor is one example of AEL innovation enhancing safety on site. This device assists in detecting hot holes and reduces the risk associated with hot hole blasts conducted in surface and coal mining operations. AEL's well respected ranges of MMUs incorporate a range of safety mechanisms and systems to heighten safety on site.

According to Merrick, segregation is another critical element that is so readily disregarded.

“Detonators must be segregated from other explosives and dangerous materials such as flammable or combustible liquids, heavy tools and even oily rags,” he adds. “Furthermore, appropriate records with the inclusion of an auditable chain of explosives control should be consistently updated.

“One injury is one injury too many, we say, but education and rigid adherence to safety procedures are a necessity in order to achieve zero injury on site.”

"AEL lowered the Total Recordable Incident Rate, based on 200 000 man hours from 1 in 2002 to 0.7 in 2004 and lowered it even further to 0.57 in 2010. The reason for this is due to internal staff members knowing and understanding that this business is an unforgiving one where one mistake can cost a life or many lives", says Merrick.

Take 5 initiative is AEL's mandate to prevent injury on customer sites and so, the company has implemented a system called “Take 5”, which is a personal risk assessment methodology that does not replace normal risk assessments, planned job observations or any other risk management systems.Take 5 is being viewed as a useful tool that will open lines of communication between mine managers and staffers whilst educating all around the possible dangers that can be experienced on site. “Offering several 'What If' scenarios, a five step hazard assessment tool and a risk matrix, Take 5 is endorsed by AEL's managing director, Tobie Louw, who asks 'Is your safety switch on?'. If not, make it a priority,” Merrick
Ivy Chamboko