Guidance about exploration hazards

What are the hazards?

Drilling is the most common exploration activity. There are a number of hazards posed by this plant which, depending on purpose, are often accompanied by other classified plant (e.g. boosters) and support vehicles.

Pre- and post-drilling activities include:

  • mapping, sampling and surveying
  • camp preparation
  • gridline preparation
  • work site preparation
  • drill pad preparation
  • downhole surveying
  • demobilisation and rehabilitation.

Hazards can include:

  • manual handling (e.g. samples, core trays)
  • electricity
  • chemicals
  • working around machinery and plant (e.g. loaders, geophysical surveys, helicopters)
  • rotating machinery.

The risks faced in exploration work need to be managed with the same rigour as for any other mining activity, whether on a mine site, processing plant or port. Equipment must still be maintained and the work area made safe.

The main differences can be the temporary nature of much of the infrastructure and remoteness. Emergency preparedness and emergency response planning may have the additional constraints of access to resources and longer response times.

For more detailed information on drilling hazards, see Guidance about exploration drilling hazards.

Exploration typically involves a lot of travelling. See Guidance about travelling for work.

Challenges

Environmental conditions

One of the most obvious challenges to people undertaking exploration in Western Australia can be the need to work in landscapes that are remote and harsh. Weather events and extremes of temperature can impact on the exploration program, its timing and the hazards to be considered when developing safe work systems.

The physical environment of the exploration area can impose unique considerations. Sandy environments, mesas, salt lakes and heavily wooded areas will dictate access, and where and how to clear, and sometimes limit the nature of the exploration activity and type of equipment used. This, in turn, will have an impact on the work program and safety considerations for these unique areas.

For more detailed information and useful links, see Guidance about working in remote areas

Timing of program

As well as seasonal weather conditions, the risks associated with other hazards can be influenced by timing, including bush fires and the potential exposure of workers to mosquito-borne diseases.

Guidance about addressing some common fire hazards includes information on bush fires.

Visit the Department of Fire and Emergency Services for more information on total fire bans and exemptions.

MSB No. 090: Total fire bans and implications for mining - 86 Kb

Mines Safety Bulletin No. 090: Total fire bans and implications for mining (21 December 2009)

Mosquito-borne diseases - information sheet - 370 Kb

This information sheet outlines the types of mosquito-borne diseases that are in Western Australia, symptoms and how to reduce the risk of disease.

Working around existing infrastructure

Whether moving through an existing mine site or mobilising equipment, the presence of infrastructure can pose hazards.

Roads and tracks

Exploration activities have to contend with vehicle movement using existing roads and tracks or by clearing such features to reach the exploration area. This can mean that exploration workers need to be aware of potential restrictions if they travel along or through:

  • production areas (e.g. schedules, blast zones)
  • multi-use roads for access (e.g. haul roads, gazetted roads)
  • pastoral or farm tracks (e.g. stock movement, harvesting activity)
  • roads and tracks that might not be suitable for the vehicles (e.g. vehicle width, weight, height, or turning circle)
  • service tracks for infrastructure (e.g. parallel to railway or conveyor).

Activities may also involve contractors who are unfamiliar with the procedures or landowner concerns. Permission may be required to travel these roads or pass through these areas. Communication is essential to ensure the risks posed by the hazards are reduced.

Prospecting in Western Australia - 1043 Kb

A reference guide providing visiting prospectors with a summary of their rights and obligations.

Railway crossings - mine safety matters pamphlet - 2902 Kb

This mine safety matters pamphlet contains information on the hazards and recommended safe work practices for railway crossings.

Services

Whether drilling, clearing or passing through an area, there is the potential for exploration activity to affect services buried or at surface. These include:

  • electrical
  • gas pipelines
  • water
  • tele-communication.

These can be owned by the mining company (with plans held on site), external service providers or other mining companies. Not only are there risks associated with excavating or becoming entangled with these features, but they can be damaged by vehicle movement over or along them, whether  temporarily or long term. Contact with those responsible for the services will establish the hazards and appropriate risk mitigation strategies required.

Old workings

Old workings such as pits, shafts, and costeans are dotted throughout parts of the Western Australian landscape. Exploration in these areas can pose particular hazards due to deteriorating ground conditions around such features.

Areas with old workings can also contain polluted water, chemicals and abandoned explosives.

Be aware of the hazards posed by old workings when working or camping in the area.

Old mine workings - pamphlet - 2951 Kb

This pamphlet outlines the hazards of abandoned mine workings.

Abandoned and unwanted explosives and flares - pamphlet - 1447 Kb

This pamphlet provides information on commercial blasting explosives and other explosives, such as fireworks, railway track signals and marine distress flares.

The department is the custodian of Western Australian mine plans dating back to the late 1880s. This information may be useful when establishing the presence of historical workings or previous drilling in a location.

Guidance material

Codes of practice and guidelines

The Mineral exploration drilling - code of practice below is a practical guide to develop safe systems of work for drilling, particularly in remote areas.

Mineral exploration drilling - code of practice - 11231 Kb

Mineral exploration drilling - code of practice: This code is a practical guide to assist those involved in mineral exploration to develop and implement safe systems of work for drilling operations, particularly in remote areas.

Some codes of practice and guidelines that may be applicable to exploration operations are listed below.

To view all the codes of practice and guidelines, search in the Publications and resources area and download them as a PDF.

Safeguarding of machinery and plant - code of practice - 1653 Kb

Safeguarding of machinery and plant - code of practice: This code of practice provides general guidance on the identification and control of safety and health hazards and risks associated with guarding of machinery and plant.

Working hours - code of practice - 433 Kb

Working hours - code of practice: This code provides guidance for employers and workers on the management of safety and health hazards and risks commonly associated with working hours arrangements.

Working hours risk management guidelines - code of practice - 212 Kb

Working hours risk management guidelines - code of practice: This is a tool for use in considering potential occupational safety and health hazard factors and risks from workplace/industry working hours arrangement.

Accident and incident reporting - guideline - 1656 Kb

Accident and incident reporting - guideline: This guideline will assist employers and employees at Western Australian mining operations to understand their reporting duties for accidents involving injury to persons and occurrences (notifiable incidents).

Alcohol and other drugs at the workplace - guideline - 474 Kb

Alcohol and other drugs at the workplace - guideline: This document provides guidance on the management of safety and health hazards and risks that may arise in relation to workers being impaired by alcohol and/or other drug usage.

Dealing with bullying at work - guideline - 608 Kb

Dealing with bullying at work - guideline: This document provides guidance on prevention and management of workplace bullying, including bullying behaviours, workplace culture, effects of bullying and what you can do about it.

General duty of care in Western Australian mines - guideline - 3442 Kb

General duty of care in Western Australian mines - guideline: The purpose of this guideline is to provide guidance on the ‘general duty of care’ provisions of the Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994.

Management of fibrous minerals in Western Australian mining operations - guideline - 2600 Kb

Management of fibrous minerals in Western Australian mining operations - guideline: This guideline should be used by anyone planning or conducting exploration or mining in areas where fibrous minerals are likely or have been encountered.

Management of noise in Western Australian mining operations - guideline - 1859 Kb

Management of noise in Western Australian mining operations - guideline: This guideline describes how noise exposure is measured, and the requirements for a written noise report and noise control plan.

Risk-based health surveillance and biological monitoring - guideline - 885 Kb

Risk-based health surveillance and biological monitoring - guideline: This guideline assists in meeting requirements relating to biological monitoring and the additional health surveillance required when employees are exposed to hazardous substances.

Audit

The mineral exploration audit is divided into three broad parts covering:

  • overall safety and health management systems (Part 1),
  • how these management systems are implemented on site and for operational activities in general (Part 2),
  • drilling and other field activities in particular (Part 3).

Operators can select aspects relevant to the size and complexity of their operations, and the activities undertaken, and tailor the audit accordingly.

Frequently asked questions on self-auditing of mining activities - information sheet - 942 Kb

This information sheet outlines the frequently asked questions on self-auditing of mining activities.

Part 1

Mineral exploration management systems – audit guide - 219 Kb

This audit guideline provides information on mineral exporation part 1 of management systems.

Part 2

Mineral exploration site operations – audit guide - 185 Kb

This audit guideline provides information on mineral exploration part 2 of site operations.

Part 3

Mineral exploration drilling and other field activities – audit guide - 316 Kb

This audit guideline provides information on mineral exploration part 3 of drilling and other field activities.

Glove box guide

A glove box guide for exploration and drilling is available for Western Australian companies. Based on the code of practice for mineral exploration drilling, the guide is designed to help manage operational risk by providing prompts for hazard identification and risk assessment.
 

Western Australian explorers should contact RSDComms@dmp.wa.gov.au to request hard copies of the glove box guide for exploration and drilling.

Pamphlets

The Mine Safety Matters series provides handy guides to specific hazards in the mining industry. Pamphlets relevant to exploration operations are listed below.

To view the full suite of Mine Safety Matters pamphlets, search in the Publications and resources area and download them as a PDF.

Drill rig operation - mine safety matters pamphlet - 872 Kb

This mine safety matters pamphlet contains information on the hazards and recommended safe work practices for drill rig operations.

Electricity - mine safety matters pamphlet - 1786 Kb

This mine safety matters pamphlet contains information on the hazards and recommended safe work practices on electricity.

Hazardous substances - mine safety matters pamphlet - 2818 Kb

This mine safety matters pamphlet contains information on the hazards and recommended safe work practices for hazardous substances.

Occupational noise - mine safety matters pamphlet - 1571 Kb

This mine safety matters pamphlet contains information on the hazards and recommended safe work practices for occupational noise.

Prospecting in remote areas - pamphlet - 954 Kb

This pamphlet is a guide on planning your prospecting trip in Western Australia.

Railway crossings - mine safety matters pamphlet - 2902 Kb

This mine safety matters pamphlet contains information on the hazards and recommended safe work practices for railway crossings.

Travelling in remote locations - mine safety matters pamphlet - 843 Kb

This mine safety matters pamphlet contains information on the hazards and recommended safe work practices when travelling in remote locations.

Welding - mine safety matters pamphlet - 1732 Kb

This mine safety matters pamphlet contains information on the hazards and recommended safe work practices when welding.

Working at height - mine safety matters pamphlet - 1538 Kb

This mine safety matters pamphlet contains information on the hazards and recommended safe work practices of working at height.

Toolbox presentations

Resources Safety has a series of toolbox presentations that can be used in workplace meetings. The presentations below are relevant to exploration operations.

Benefits of good self-regulation (2012) - 920 Kb

This toolbox presentation explains the benefits of good self-regulation, what it means and the relationship between government control and self-regulation.

Duty of care applied to mineral exploration (2008) - 1506 Kb

This toolbox presentation contains information about the duty of care applied to mineral exploration.

Fibrous minerals and dust - managing the risks: Part 1 (2010) - 2088 Kb

This presentation outlines mineral fibre types, exposure to asbestos fibre and why they are hazardous.

Fibrous minerals and dust - managing the risks: Part 2 (2010) - 1453 Kb

This presentation outlines the dust hazards, harmful effects and how to control dust.

Management and supervision of exploration sites (2012) - 5715 Kb

This toolbox presentation looks at the legislative requirements and reporting obligations of the management and supervision of exploration sites

Managing fibrous minerals during exploration (2013) - 5684 Kb

This toolbox presentation contains information on what you should look for when managing fibrous minerals during exploration such as abestiform minerals. It also outlines the health effects and the exposure controls.

Radiation safety - Part 1: Naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) (2009) - 681 Kb

This toolbox presentation contains information about radiation safety and facts about Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM).

Radiation safety - Part 2: Managing the risks (2009) - 1444 Kb

This toolbox presentation contains information about radiation safety and how to manage to the risks by following NORM guidelines.

Taking care of tooling on exploration sites (2013) - 6588 Kb

This toolbox presentation explains what you should know in regards to taking care of tooling on exploration sites.

Related information

The Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines has produced QGN: Mineral exploration safety guidance note, which has information on the types of control measures to consider for mineral exploration, including drilling.

For exploration camps, the Western Australian Department of Health has produced a Scoping Tool: Public health considerations for mine sites, exploration camps and construction villages that may be of use.