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Visual communication is essential to occupational safety and this is especially true if the workplace is a notoriously hazardous mine. The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) requires that mine operators follow safety guidelines to reduce the risks of safety hazards. Mines should also employ visual safety tools such as safety signs and labels to increase safety awareness and keep operations in the workplace running smoothly.

The visuals you post in your mine will depend in part on the type of mine you operate—metal, nonmetal, coal, underground, surface—but there are many basic safety signs you should post. In this post, we’ll examine common types of signage used in mines and explore ways you can implement these visual tools in your own mine.

Explosions


Potential explosions, particularly in underground mines, can pose a serious threat to safety.
At the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, for example, inadequate ventilation systems allowed for a buildup of coal dust and methane in the mine. This led to an explosion 1000 feet beneath the surface that killed 29 miners in 2010.

Installing proper ventilation systems is critical to preventing explosions, but signs can help employees do their part to decrease explosion risks. Danger signs that alert people to the presence of flammable materials and possible ignition sources are important, as well as signs instructing people not to smoke or have open flames in these areas.

 

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Fires

In addition to labeling flammable materials and possible ignition sources, mines should label the components of fire suppression systems including fire extinguishers and hoses.

 

Electrical

Electrical equipment can pose fire, shock, and arc flash hazards, and mines must label this equipment accordingly. Major electrical installations should have danger signs alerting employees to the hazard. These signs and labels should explain the hazard present and appropriate avoidance measures.

 

Traffic/Transportation

Mining operations often involve many moving people and vehicles. Clear traffic rules should exist to prevent collisions and signs can reinforce these rules. Signs can convey speed limit, highlight intersections, or mark the locations where it’s safe for pedestrians to walk.

If vehicles containing hazardous materials move through your mine, you should also mark them with signs indicating their contents.

 

Chemicals

Mines must follow the requirements for hazardous chemical labeling laid out in the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). This involves marking any hazardous chemical containers with labels that have the appropriate product identifiers, signal words, hazard statements, pictograms, precautionary statements, and supplier information. MSHA announced in 2013 that mines should comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) HCS, which includes updates from the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). Mines should make sure to consult MSHA and OSHA for details. You can see examples of labels with the required elements below.

 

Dangerous Spaces

Many locations in mines pose a hazard to people who enter them. Signs warning people to stay out of certain areas are important. MSHA points out that areas with high radon levels where work is no longer performed need appropriate signage. Other useful signs can point out an area has low clearance, has uneven walking surfaces, or has any other features that could pose a threat to workers.

In some situations, people might also be working a dangerous area, and their safety will depend on the choices of those around them. For example, MSHA requires that “Men Working in Shaft” signs be posted when a hoisting operation is performed to keep all parties involved safe.

 

Personal Protective Equipment

Working safely in a mine requires many types of personal protective equipment (PPE). Employees may need hard hats, steel-toed boots, gloves, respirators, eye protection, and more. Training about when and where to use PPE is necessary, but posting signs reminding people of where they should don their PPE can increase employee compliance, and consequently employee safety. Try posting a variety of signs and labels in the locations where people need PPE.

 

Pipe Markers & Valve Tags

When pipes run through mining worksites, they must be marked. These markings, which include the name of the pipe’s contents and the direction of the flow, quickly communicate to employees, maintenance workers, and emergency responders what those pipes contain. Pipe markers should follow the ANSI/ASME A13.1 standard for length, color, and text size.

In conjunction with pipe markings, any valves on your pipe system should be tagged with pertinent information about their contents, too.

 

Way Finding/Egress

Any workplace—not just mines—should have directional information and marked exit routes. These signs help people find their way during an emergency or during normal operations. These signs can play a critical role when the power goes out, especially if the signs are made from reflective or photoluminescent materials that can be seen in the dark or by the light of flashlights or headlamps.

 

Facility Information

Your mining operation will run more smoothly if people can easily find the information they need to do their jobs. Posting general facility information such as the location of restrooms, trash receptacles, and break rooms, as well as policies for smoking and cell phone use is good common sense. It also helps people go about their work without needing to ask too many questions.

Mines should also post a sign labeling the mine’s main office so employees and visitors can easily identify it and get their questions answered.

For the safety of the public, post signs around the periphery of a mining operation warning people not to enter without permission.

 

 

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