Guidance about exploration drilling hazards

Drilling hazards

Drilling in any environment is potentially hazardous but mineral exploration in remote locations, such as those encountered in Western Australia, presents additional risk factors.

There are hazards associated with the preparation of camps, work sites and drill pads, as well as those specific to the operation of drill rigs.

Western Australia’s code of practice for mineral exploration drilling encourages operators to develop site-specific solutions for the major hazard categories identified for the remote exploration environment, including:

  • rotating and moving parts
  • compressed air systems
  • hydraulic systems
  • hazardous substances and dangerous goods
  • electricity
  • manual tasks
  • working at height
  • falling objects
  • working in hot environments
  • fatigue and mental wellbeing
  • dust
  • noise
  • ionising radiation
  • hot work
  • extreme weather and bushfires
  • light vehicle movement
  • heavy vehicle movement
  • remoteness of exploration
  • natural gases
  • existing workings
  • housekeeping

Further information on these topics is available in the code of practice and elsewhere on the departmental website in the safety section.

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.

For more detailed information and useful links about exploration hazards in general, see Guidance about exploration hazards.

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 in Western Australia, the guide is designed to help manage operational risk by providing prompts for hazard identification and risk assessment.

Western Australian drillers should contact RSDComms@dmirs.wa.gov.au to request hard copies of the glove box guide for their vehicles.

Other guidance material

Additional resources that may assist in the risk management process for exploration drilling activities are listed below.

Managing the risks

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

Drill rig operation

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.

Maintenance and tooling

Welding - mine safety matters pamphlet - 1732 Kb

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

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.

Further information: In the past, pipe wrenches have been used inappropriately in hydraulic applications (e.g. to break RC drill rod joints) and this has led to serious breakout incidents. There is a detailed article about this topic on pages 20 and 21 of volume 21, number 2 of MineSafe magazine issued in October 2012.

Manufacturer's product safety alerts includes a warning pipe wrench use from a manufacturer.

You can search for mines safety bulletins and other safety alerts in the Publications and resources area and download them as a PDF.

Health and hygiene

There are a number of health and hygiene concerns from drilling. Drilling can also generate dust, intersect gas and fibrous minerals. It also involves the use of chemicals such as diesel and drilling muds, which need to be managed.

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.

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.

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.

Camps

The Western Australian Department of Health has produced a Scoping Tool: Public health considerations for mine sites, exploration camps and construction villages that can be used to check items to be considered.

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.

It is recommended that drilling contractors use at least Part 3 and parts of Part 2.

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 - 588 Kb

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

Part 2

Mineral exploration site operations – audit guide - 547 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 - 705 Kb

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

Related information

Below is a list of documents that you may find useful.

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.

Exploration safety issues in Western Australia (2009) - 402 Kb

This toolbox presentation outlines the exploration safety issues such as accidents to drillers, driller's offsiders and field crew.

Industry performance and issues of concern - exploration (2011) - 836 Kb

This toolbox presentation outlines the issues that concern the mines inspectorate across WA and incident trends.