This time of year brings us so much opportunity: for festivity, for gratitude and for reflection. We adorn our neighborhoods with twinkling lights; friends get together for skiing or ice skating. We give thanks as families gather around holiday dinner tables. Throughout this season, when the Nevada air is cold, and we are all wishing for snow, nearly everyone is busier than usual — putting up lights and decorations, driving to stores and parties, and making holiday treats. And, especially given recent losses in the industry, we reflect on the opportunity to take the lessons of the workplace home with us every day.
All the activity certainly increases the potential for an accident on the road or at home. Traffic is heavier, and drivers can be distracted. Trees are heavy; lights are hung in precarious locations; and ice can be treacherous. It is important to remember the natural and constructed hazards around us, and to keep our own safety in mind, even while having a good time.
Nevada miners know safety.
Nevada’s mines are among the safest in the world, thanks to decades of purposeful dedication to safety. Training is one important aspect. Before starting to work, miners are thoroughly trained for the job at hand; more important, they are urged not to accept working conditions that compromise safety. Planning also plays a key role. Mine managers develop strategies to minimize known hazards and continually keep the focus on safety. A strong federal and state regulatory structure, which includes unannounced inspections, further encourages a proactive approach to safety for everyone at a mine site.
Government agencies – primarily the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration – write and enforce regulations that guarantee a baseline standard for maintaining worker safety on every site. From that foundation, company policies build operating procedures that often exceed regulations to ensure workplace safety. On every shift, miners engage in activities that, together, produce a safe workplace.
Nevada miners are also prepared when things do not go as planned. Individual miners are trained in basic first aid and know exactly what to do if an emergency occurs. Professional mine rescue teams train regularly to respond to all kinds of emergencies, both above and below ground. Inspectors arrive immediately to assess situations. Part or all of an affected mine will be shut down until it is determined that employees may return safely to work. A post-incident evaluation is conducted to ensure, as much as possible, that the same issue does not arise again, and that analysis is often shared across the state. One mine’s experience can serve as another mine’s lesson and help to avoid a tragic incident.
With diligence and attention, safety has become ingrained in the work experience at Nevada mines. The proof is in the numbers because safety is a way of life and a way of work at Nevada mines in the 21st century. In 2016, Nevada miners worked a total of 27 million hours at 237 active mines across the state. Of those mines, 220 did not have any lost-time injuries; 191 worked without a single reportable injury. This was not the first year to record such impressive statistics, and it won’t be the last.
Miners’ focus on safety at work can also be helpful at home, especially at this busy time of year, and miners especially know that potential tragedies do not take any time off for the holidays. Whether on the job or on the road for the holidays, it is always important to focus on safety. Slow down while driving in heavy traffic. Make sure the ladder is secure when installing outdoor light displays. Use the proper tools for the job at hand. With thoughtful attention to holiday hazards, this December will be a joyous, festive time.
Miners’ focus on safety at work can also be helpful at home, especially at this busy time of year, and miners especially know that potential tragedies do not take any time off for the holidays. Whether on the job or on the road for the holidays, it is always important to focus on safety. — Dana Bennett, Nevada Mining Association President