IIT Kharagpur organized the 34th International conference of Safety in Mines Research Institutes (ICSMRI) which is the oldest and the most prestigious global conference for enhancing safety and health of mine workers all over the world. The conference is biennially organized across the globe and has eighty years' long history associated with it. The first conference was held in 1931 in UK. India hosted this conference for the second time in New Delhi. Sri N C Jha, Chairman of Coal India Limited was the chief guest on the inaugural function. The conference had close to 70 speakers from 17 countries.
Guest of Honor Ms. Panudda Boonpala, Deputy Director ILO sub-regional office for South Asia focused on accidents occurring in small scale mines and emphasized the fact that accident rates in small scale mines are much higher than in large scale operations. Because of the hazardous nature of mining the ILO has always been deeply concerned with improving the work and life of those working in the mining sector. The participants acknowledged the progress that is being made on miners' health and safety worldwide. In particular, health and safety statistics that were presented at the conference on fatalities, injuries and diseases confirm that the improvement in occupational health and safety is significant. However, airborne respiratory contaminants continue to be a major health hazard in the mining sector, especially exposures to coal, silica, diesel, etc. Confined spaces, vibrations, odd postures and other difficult operating conditions induce lower back pain and several joint disorders among the miners in addition to noise induced hearing loss. In this regard involvement of equipment manufacturers is felt to be of utmost importance.
Mines are frequently being exposed to explosions, fires, inundations and massive strata failures. Improved measures for disaster response and prevention and control research are required to enhance survival, escape and rescue. Issues such as monitoring, automation, nano-technology, scale of equipment, size of operations, operating procedures, technology require key attention. Institutions that are involved with the mining sector like IITs, ISM and CIMFR should take a leading role to develop practical tools and techniques for application at the workplace, capacity building and production of outputs. Management of mining companies should encourage development of effective applications for risk analysis and risk management as is being practiced aerospace and nuclear sectors.
The analyses of recent disasters in several industrial sectors including mining have concluded that organizational factors played a major role in their causation. The lack of a culture of safety has been identified as an underlying cause leading to the eventual disaster. Mining operations and organizations can benefit greatly from increasing the understanding and introduction of a culture of safety in their sphere of activities in addition to enhancing the culture of compliance and culture of prevention. Data on technical safety and process safety are not as extensive. Technical assistance to small and semi-mechanized mines which are generally unprepared to handle the growing complexity of modern mining regulations, mining conditions and societal demands is recommended. Demonstration of benefits of expenditures is a requirement for effective management of scarce resources. It is a useful exercise to look at the benefits of avoiding cost due to improved safety conditions.
In addition to mine workers, health and safety of the people in mining communities deserve greater attention during the planning, designing, operating and closure stages of a mining operation. There are issues related to vulnerable population, potential health and safety impacts and manner of dealing with the issues. Pro-active involvement of mining companies and mining-related agencies cannot be overemphasized.
Notes to Editor
The 4-day conference was organized by the Department of Mining Engineering at IITKGP, set up in 1956. It is unique to the IIT system and one of the strongest departments in India in imparting mining engineering education and research. It offers undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral programs.