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Safety of Miners in the Opal Fields


This essay focuses on safety of miners in the opal fields. It talks about the major potential hazards in the opal fields and ways to ensure safety from these hazards. These hazards include explosives, unstable ground, shafts, machinery and dust.

The claim is only as safe as the miners who are working onto it. If miners cannot follow laws and preventions outlined then your claim will never be as safe as it could be.


Opal mining can be an exciting but potentially hazardous occupation. A responsible miner can identify and minimise risks. Many people will come onto a claim such as noodlers, miners and tourists. The claim can either be current with people working or maybe it's old and abandoned. The problem that the claim is left in has a major effect on the safety of anybody who walks onto the claim. Specific laws and regulations have been set down by the federal government, which must be abided by to ensure the very least safety standard is defined. The very best five potential hazards are explosives, unstable ground, shafts, machinery and dust.


Claim Preparation

Many risks arise from previously worked areas. Old workings such as drill holes and backfilled or covered shafts, that could be covered by vegetation, are potential risks. Shaft positions should be approximated if mining nearby. As these old shafts can collapse, it is advisable to leave a safe distance between shafts. If work is to be commenced in old shafts a number of checks should be completed. Drives, pillars and levels poor ground should all be checked and noted. Notes can include workings on two levels with the low level directly under the upper. Large un-pillared areas, thin crowned pillars and fretting or cracking of pillars. Lastly cracks in the wall and roof and pillar size should also be checked.

Claim boundaries are also a significant factor to avoid breaking into other neighbouring shafts.


Experience in using and handling explosives could lead to complacency. Inexperienced people not only can be potentially dangerous to them but can also pose risks with miss fires, unstable walls and fly rock. Licences to purchase, transport, store, handle and use explosives must be acquired and kept current. This ensures a minimum standard of safety is achieved.

Not only are licenses important to ensure safety but storage, transport and use of explosives can be more important. Making certain all explosive equipment is stored appropriately is a must. Explosives should be stored correctly in a great, dry place with detonators stored separately from explosive material. Other storage measures which should be met is that the explosive boxes are wood lined and locked. The boxes must be wood lined to ensure no static build-up occurs and creates a spark.

The storage areas of diesel and Nitropril should be well separated to ensure when there is a spill that they don't mix.

Many laws already are set up for the way explosives are transported, prepared and blasted. These laws are put in place for a specific reason which is safety, any deviation from the processes lay out could cause a potential injury.

Explosive Fumes

Various gases are generated due to blasting. Gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides along and other noxious gases pose a potential health hazard after having a blast. The reason these gases are dangerous is because they displace the oxygen available for breathing. For this reason adequate ventilation is required to release these gases before entering the blasted area.

When a blast occurs a great time radius should be placed in location to ensure the safety of other miners. In underground mines there is absolutely no law but it is strongly recommended that miners do not stay underground. Gases produced from the blast can disperse throughout other shafts and may also cumulate their if there is inadequate airflow, the blast may also cause sections of the roof to collapse. Gases that are dispersed throughout the mine can cumulate in low or high cavities with regards to the gas. SKIN TIGHTENING AND is heavier than air and can cumulate in low spots and floor cavities. Carbon Monoxide is lighter than air and can cumulate in high spots and roof cavities. Areas of known for having inadequate airflow should be checked after blasting to guarantee the gas levels are at a safe level. Fans, blowers and other ventilation systems should be used to extract the noxious gases from the mine. These should be utilized in preference to natural ventilation because they are more speedily.

Unstable Structures

The geological structures of opal fields vary. There are a few structures which can support a wide underground area, while others are blocky material with faults which makes mining difficult rather than recommended. Opal mining in South Australia is quite difficult as the general bearing rock is weathered, brittle and fractured. Each place in SA is different because of the stress distributions and rock types. With many of these factors it is up to the miner to choose weather it is safe to start underground mining for the reason that area.

In certain geological structures cave-ins can occur. A survey of the underground mining area should be done, noting old workings. Whenever underground a miner has to be constantly aware of the conditions especially the roof stability. An unstable roof that could be due to hidden faults could lead to a rockfall which could be fatal.

Weather conditions can also affect the wall structure and integrity. Air entering the mine can dry out ground and start cracks, slides or faults. This drying of material can cause slabs of ground to fall. If a huge amount of water gets into the mine the supporting strength of walls and pillars may be reduced. Care should be taken to identify if and fretting has occurred at the base of structures. Any operating shaft should have the entrance to it kept in good shape. Loose rocks, material and tools should all be cleared from the entry as these can certainly be knocked in to the shaft. Famous brands wind, weathering or perhaps a blast close by could cause material to fall.

For many of these reasons outlined with falling objects it is vital to wear a hard hat all the time. Many of these factors can potentially be fatal, but these factors are usually overlooked as miners often become complacent and do not check the stability and strength of walls and roofs frequently. These checks should become necessary to a miners daily routine.


Shafts will be the key entry way to the underground sections of the mine. Keeping the shaft in good shape is essential to safety. Support structures near the top of the shaft, such as timbers and pipes, should be kept in good shape. When entering any new shaft weather it is blind or dead it is essential to ventilate the shaft to eliminate gases.

Underground areas will need to have at least two means of exit. That is in the event one exit gets blocked for reasons uknown that could be due to a rock fall. Having two exits requires regular maintenance to ensure that both mechanisms, which are put through corrosion and weathering, are safe to use.

There is a significant risk of folks falling down an open shaft. Not only are tourists vulnerable but also the miners. Small shafts can catch someone's leg or ankle and cause injuries whereas larger shafts pose risks of vehicles and folks falling in. It is recommended to leave a ring of dirt surrounding the shaft entrance to signify that a shaft is there. Whenever a miner leaves the claim, it is their responsibility to leave the shaft and its own surroundings in a safe condition. Manner


When operating any machinery either above or below ground a pre-start check should be completed. That is to guarantee the machine you are going to operate is a safe working condition. Goods that should be checked are fluid levels, tyre inflation and condition, track tension, gauges, lights, hydraulic rams, lines and buckets, brakes and steering.

Any diesel machinery in operation produces carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and other noxious gases. These gases act like blasting gases and can be fatal if inhaled in large concentrations. When in large concentrations these gases can't be seen or smelt. Care should be studied when operating any machinery underground ensuring enough ventilation.


A major hazard when working at a mine is dust. Dust can cause or trigger numerous health issues such as skin irritation, allergies and respiratory damage. Generally particles of dust are caught within the nose, throat and bronchial tubes. Handful of these particles however get into the breathing system, because of their decoration. It really is these particles which cause the most respiratory problems. Dust particles that are of a specific concern are silica. Silica is found predominantly in sandstone host rocks. High contact with small silica particles can potentially result in a fatal lung disease called silicosis. Although all dust can not be tested for silica it is vital to restrict dust contact with a minimum.

Ways to regulate dust include extractors, collection systems and maximum airflow. Wearing a respirator or a dusk mask at the absolute minimum can help prevent the amount of dust a miner will inhale. Though it is vital that the correct respirator or dust mask is used, as each is different, depending on what cartridge is installed in the device.


Operating machines or tools underground will generally use electricity. It is important to remember that electricity seeks the path of least resistance to earth. Most cases the path of least resistance is the body as it is 80% water. It is vital that the design and installing any electrical supply is safe. The miner cannot touch any live electrical component.

Personal protective equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) can help in protecting a miner from potential hazards. PPE is not a replacement for eliminating a specific problem. It might be preferable to fit an extraction system for dust rather than wearing a dust mask.

A quantity of items should be worn when employed in a mining area such as hard hats, footwear, breathing, hearing and eye protection. Hard hats can be uncomfortable, fall off and restrict clearance in small spaces, but these inconveniences save lives. Footwear suitable for miners are steel capped boots. They provide a lot more support for ankles and grip when walking on loose and rugged surfaces. The steel cap provides protection for your toes if something drops or falls onto your feet. Breathing protection general comes from dust masks either rubber of paper. Both are designed to sit on a clean shaven face. When the miner has a bear or stubble the effectiveness of these masks is reduced. Hearing protection generally comes in two forms that are ear plugs and ear muffs. Ear protection only cuts out area of the noise, usually around 20db(A). Since only part of the noise is cut out it is important to ensure that the miner realises that higher levels of ear protection is required when working next to excessively noisy machines such as jack hammers. Generally eye protection should be worn at all times. There is a constant risk of particles of some nature being airborne and perhaps entering the eye. Damage to the attention may be something small just like a scratch to really losing an eye.


These rules and advised safety precautions to be taken are put set up for a reason. It really is solely to help protect the average person from getting injured or killed. But miners in the opal fields generally hold the she'll be right attitude. A great deal of preventions can be put in spot to help ensure safety but if the miner does not follow them they are next to useless. They could think only a short amount of exposure to dust is fine, but if they continue to have contact with dust containing silica they could cause the onset of silicosis. Not only can you do internal damage through various noxious gases and dusts, but a lot of damage can be carried out to the body itself. Cuts, sprains and broken bones are lots of things which may appear depending on how safe, cautious and or ignorant the miner is.


The top five potential hazards in opal field mining are explosives, unstable ground, shafts, machinery and dust. Many of these potential hazards have laws, regulations and precautions put in destination to ensure the very least standard of safety. This minimum standard of safety is merely reached if the individual who enters the claim follows the guidelines. Underneath line being that safety in the opal fields boils down to each individual that enters the claim. In case the miner is ignorant, complacent or plain lazy the safety of not only themselves but for others dealing with them could be in danger. It's the miner's responsibility to ensure that not only are they safe but also fellow co-workers.

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