By Martin Carter
No matter how well a mine or quarry has attended to safety, going through a Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), Canadian Standards Association (CSA), or WorkSafe BC inspection is a bear.
Why? Because a safe working environment is the mine site’s responsibility — even if headquarters is in Canada, Australia, or the United States.
Safety and budget-conscious mines like Barrick, headquartered in Toronto; Teck Coal with headquarters in Vancouver and operations in Hinton, Sparwood, Elkford, and Millertown; and Rio Tinto with a head office in Montreal, Quebec, all create safety labels on-site with thermal transfer printers — satisfying both CSA and WorkSafe BC— to keep operations running smoothly.
JoAnne Thomas is the dewatering compliance technician for Barrick Gold Corp.’s Cortez Mine which employs more than 1,000 people. Barrick is the world’s largest gold producer with a portfolio of 26 operating mines.
A big believer in mine safety, Thomas offered several observations. She explained that safety signs are used in heap leach and dewatering areas, as well as water lines, shut offs, meter locations, diesel, no smoking, and low head spaces.
“We are regularly inspected by MSHA. I think we all appreciate the insight MSHA inspections provide,” she said. “Our one and only safety challenge is every person going home safe and healthy every day.”
Providing clear information and signage is part of the safety program for Barrick. Thomas personally uses a label printer almost daily. Crew members come to her with label requests. She creates the labels, and the crew members do the labeling.
“I find it very rewarding to work directly with crews. Being able to get the information and the equipment they need as quickly as possible is wonderful,” she said.
Mine and quarry equipment operators, mill operators, and maintenance personnel face dangers every day, but traditional safety sign ordering methods are costly and too slow to make an immediate impact on safety.
Many environmental, health, and safety managers dig through thick catalogs in search of just the right sign with the correct dimensions, colors, and regulatory compliant language. Requisitions slow the process further.
Ordering custom signs from sign shops can be expensive and slow — especially for delivery to remote locations. It might take weeks to receive them. This process hinders getting signs up quickly or even at all, especially when 20 or 30 signs must be purchased to get a price break when only a couple are needed.
The good news? Thermal transfer printers may be ordered directly and delivered overnight to remote sites. Immediately, all the signs and labels necessary can be created, and they will perform anywhere in and around the mine. Thermal transfer printers use heat to “bake” graphics and text onto vinyl and other supplies which have been tested to perform under the most demanding conditions.
“A major safety concern for us is posting signs on entry and exit doors,” said Steve Unti, safety manager, Teck Coal. “We also create our own machine operation labels and electrical box labels in the mines. In the future, I see us labeling all our movable equipment with control stickers and using preprinted sign stock for safety area warnings, equipment operation, and equipment lock out-tag out procedures, all being done with one printer.”
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