If all goes well, new mining regulations will come into effect in April of 2015. These will update the current Mines Regulations 2014. Changes include the current Approved Codes of Practice being replaced by new guidance and a modern set of regulations in place to focus on the control of risks. Other changes include the mine operator being the duty holder (not the mine manager), and, coal mines will no longer be required to participate in a rescue scheme. However, rescue provisions must be in place. The new regulations will remove unnecessary burdens on businesses by providing a sound legislative framework. As well as the Mines Regulations 2014, there are currently many acts and regulations that govern working in mines, from the Escape and Rescue From Mines Regulations 1995 to the Mines and Quarries Act 1954.
In the 1800’s, the shocking truth of working conditions in mines, and especially that involving children, led to The Mines and Collieries Bill being passed by parliament in 1842. This prohibited all underground work for women and girls and for boys under 10 years of age. However, young boys and men were still at risk, in terms of health and fatalities. In 1872, the Coal Mines Regulation Act required pit managers to have certification of their training. Things were still bad over the decades and up until the early 1900’s health and safety law was not a frugal part of the mining environment.
Mines have many hazards and risks associated with them, including that associated with fires, inrushes of gas/materials, dust, floods and explosions. Accidental fires or explosions can be devastating in terms of loss of life, damage to property and business continuity. Risk assessments are crucial when mining, and, include identifying the hazards and the sources of fuel. Sources of fuel include firedamp (a naturally occurring mixture of hydrocarbon gases), coal dust, wood, diesel and some explosives. Sources of ignition include electrical sparking, hot surfaces, and compression of air. The risk of a fire or explosion must be evaluated, it must be ascertained who might be harmed, these findings recorded and an emergency plan in place. An inrush of water or material can occur at mines. An ‘inrush’ is the sudden arrival of a material or gas. To prevent an inrush, the plans of the underground workings must be accurate and up to date. It must be confirmed whether workings are being carried out in a hazardous area, i.e whether material is likely to flow from nearby areas if it got wet. It is imperative that medical aid facilities and emergency evacuation procedures are in place in mines. The first aid at mines section of the Mines Regulations 2014 will not change in the New Year.