The drilling industry has had variations in the standards of equipment and personnel over the years. However; as safety in mining operations and exploration have improved drilling companies and manufacturers of rigs have dramatically raised their standards.
Safety Management Systems
Some drilling companies operate under an Integrated Management System. This may include accreditation like AS4801-2001 Occupational Health and Safety Management, ISO 9001-2008 Quality Management System for the provision of drilling services in both reverse circulation & diamond and the ISO 14001-1996 Environment Management System. Accreditation is maintained by six-monthly external surveillance audits and two-monthly internal audits.
RC Drilling Rig Innovations
One of the main focuses in RC drilling has been to limit the amount of manual handling involved in the breaking out and handling of rods as this is the single biggest cause of accidents. New hydraulic drill rod break out systems allows RC drill rod joints to be both mechanically tightened and untightened without any physical contact from the operators.
When combined with automated rod handling systems this eliminates one of drillings highest risk activities. Modern RC rigs can also be equipped with a remote drillers console enabling the driller to operate the rig at a safe distance.
Other safety features to consider include noise and dust suppression as well as hand rails, access ladders, lighting and fire extinguishers that meet relevant industry standards.
Drilling rigs or mobile equipment entering a mine site in some countries are fitted with a rotating beacon, Hi visibility flag and UHF two way radios.
Drilling Codes of Practice:
Some countries have developed codes of practise for those involved in the exploration drilling industry.
In Western Australian the minerals industry, Resources Safety has developed a draft code of practice to provide a practical and accessible guide to help identify hazards and risk factors. The draft has been developed with input from various industry sources & is designed to be used by anyone involved in drilling operations, from the driller’s offsider to the managing director. The code addresses hazards associated with drilling methods like RC that are commonly used in remote exploration in the State.
When completed, the code of practice will be presented to the Mining Industry Advisory Committee (MIAC) for consideration. Once endorsed by MIAC, it will be submitted to the Minister for Mines and Petroleum for approval to publish.
Nationally Accredited Training – Certificate 2, 3 & 4 Drilling Operations
Australia has developed a traineeship for exploration drilling. This is a structured training program where you are working in the industry gaining real work experience and getting paid while you study. A traineeship is a valuable first step towards a rewarding career & is available on a full time basis generally for the duration of twelve months.
Financial incentives may be available to eligible employers who take on trainees, more importantly it gives them the opportunity to develop well trained, versatile and multi-skilled employees. Once the trainee has successful completed the traineeship they gain a Nationally Recognised Qualification.
Personal Protective Equipment – PPE
Drilling companies provide PPE. An example of equipment that may be required is listed below from the “NT Government Geological Survey 2004/2007, Drilling Manual.”
- Head: hard hats (AS1800, 1801, 2210) must be worn within 30 m of the rig. Note that metal hard hats are not permitted; allowable accessories include sun brim, visor-type face shield, earmuff attachments, lampholder. Long hair must be restrained, even when a hard hat is worn.
- Eye: safety glasses (AS1336:1982, AS1337), tinted or otherwise; welding shields (AS1338): a full-face shield is to be worn when cutting core. Filters in fluoroscopes and UV boxes (AS1338 Part 2)
- Hearing: hearing protection device shall provide protection to a level not exceeding 85 dB (AS1270). This can be earmuffs, disposable ear plugs or both, such that they do not compromise other safety equipment
- Respiratory: respiratory protection against dust (AS1715, AS1716). Breathing apparatus may be carried on some rigs and its use requires formal training
- Skin: sunscreen and insect repellent will be supplied by the employer
- Hand: general work gloves (AS2161), welding gloves (AS1558)
- Foot: safety boots (AS2210) with a steel toe cap must be worn by all personnel within 30 m of an operating drill rig;
- Clothing: safe and adequate clothing, no loose clothing, a UPF (UV) rating of 50+. Some companies stipulate that long-sleeved shirts and long trousers be worn on drill rigs; welding apron, raincoats
- Harness: all personnel aloft must have a safety belt or safety harness (AS1891, AS2626). Note that these standards forbid the use of harnesses made from leather or natural fibre webbing. No tools to be hand carried into the mast