Excavating the Rich History of Mining Safety Technology
Workplace Wellness In one of the most dangerous jobs, proper communication is the difference between life and death. Learn about the tech that’s keeping mines rescuers safe.
Mines rescue is one of the most challenging jobs in today’s mining industry. Teams of five to six members are confronted with demanding scenarios that push them to their limits, both physically and mentally. Miners often face serious safety risks, such as bad visibility, toxic and explosive gases, fire and smoke, rockfall and injured miners. Mines rescue teams are highly trained to quickly decide what options within the mine emergency plan are viable and if necessary, what escape or rescue measures should be taken.
Communication is critical
“The better planning there is in place, the smoother the first moments are likely to unfold.”
According to "A Study of First Moments in Underground Mine Emergency Response,"the first few moments in an underground mine emergency are critical to the successful escape and/or rescue of workers. A study conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) concluded that emergency response times are dramatically minimized when understanding the importance of key factors such as preparation and planning, communication and information, leadership and trust, and training.
No one understands this better than mine rescuers themselves.
“While everybody is coming out, we’re going in,” said Glencore mine superintendent Jim Lundrigan. Going in means going in prepared. “The better planning there is in place, the smoother the first moments are likely to unfold,” Lundrigan adds. Planning is an active process which involves real-life simulations and technical knowledge of the necessary equipment.
When a plan is put into action, a key component is being able to communicate vital and accurate information amongst on-site responders, the underground team and the fresh air base. Accurate, quality information often depends on viable communication systems in place. Previous NIOSH studies indicate that the effectiveness of a mine’s communication system is a key factor in the initial response1. Therefore, mine rescue communication equipment is an integral part of every mine rescue mission — and workers’ lives literally depend on it.
Remembering the Drägermen
Necessity is often the inspiration that leads to ground-breaking technological advancements. For centuries, the only protection miners had against carbon dioxide was a cloth mask soaked in vinegar. Those days have long passed, yet they gave profound impetus to a new era in safe mining technology.
At the start of the 20th century, Dräger’s founder, Johann Heinrich Dräger, was motivated to develop an oxygen-compatible pressure reducer. He recognized the dangers posed by CO2 and that O2 was vital in sustaining life. Along with his son, Bernhard Dräger, the company was one of the first to envision using this technology in underground operations. Their vision and innovation gave birth to the first Dräger closed-circuit oxygen rebreather. At that time, this was breakthrough technology.
At the 1911 National Mining Contest held in Pennsylvania, most rescue miners wore Dräger rebreathers to support, protect and rescue miners underground. They called themselves “Drägermen,” heroes to underground miners.
After five generations, this name runs deep into the heart of the Dräger family. "It makes me very proud that the collaboration between Dräger and the mine rescuers is a kind of symbiosis illustrated by the term ‘Drägerman,’” said Stefan Dräger, CEO.
For over 110 years, Dräger’s commitment to innovative technologies in mining is largely due to its close collaboration with its customers — the miners themselves. This spirit of working together has resulted in safe and practical solutions for mines rescue teams around the world facing today’s challenges.