Mining operations are some of the most critical and hazardous industrial activities, with a range of risks associated with their operations, including theft, trespassing, accidents, crime and terrorism. To address these risks, access control, and integrated security solutions have become increasingly essential for mining operators. These security solutions not only protect the assets of mining companies but also ensure the safety of their employees and surrounding communities.
In this article, we delve into the different types of access control and integrated security solutions that mining companies use to mitigate risks and explore how these technologies have transformed the mining industry. We’ll also look at industry trends, legislative changes and the adjustments that need to be made to accommodate the security technology in these harsh environments.
Tailored security solutions for different types of mines
Access control in the mining and resources sector is generally used less for security and more to manage governance, risk, and compliance; it’s all about protecting the safety of workers and ensuring business continuity.
This includes managing personnel competencies to only allow access to those that hold active qualifications and inductions for the site, or within a particular area within site. Contractors may also perhaps only enter if they hold current insurance and have an active work order.
In many countries, there are state or government-legislated licences that a worker must hold before they can work on a mining site. These competency level controls will differ depending on what role a worker has and where they are working; for example, there will be different enforcement rules for someone working underground, than those working only on the mine surface.
Fatigue is a significant risk to workers at an organisation that operates 24/7, particularly to those who work night shifts or are working in dangerous environments. We see these rules being applied in more stringent ways for such personnel to prevent a worker from breaching fatigue policies during their shift.
An access control system allows sites to quickly locate workers for risk assessments and a potential change of personnel – not only saving time, but also preventing disruption to the site. This type of management (with appropriate enforcement and proactive dynamic notifications) therefore becomes even more important for personnel that are working underground.
Mobile smartphone devices are commonly used to spot-check workers onsite (i.e. to validate they are trained and inducted to be where they are, or performing their current task), as well as being able to be used for mobile evacuation procedures and access control movements.
In underground operations, it is paramount that the location of workers is known, due to the elevated risk in these environments. Cardholder location tracking is implemented to ensure workers can be accounted for in the event of an emergency, or to safely manage underground blasting. Providing electronic ‘tagging’ stations and implementing long-range tracking of personnel ensures the control room operators not only know how many people are in locations underground, but in which area each worker resides.
Integrating this data into firing procedures ensures explosives cannot be triggered until all personnel are accounted for in safe areas. Tagging portals that provide feedback to the worker with personal information (and photo ID images) provide peace of mind that the system has indeed logged their location as they travel to different areas while on shift.
Furthermore, long-range tracking of workers can be employed in underground operations where travel is required in buses, light vehicles, or machinery. This ensures the location data can be captured without requiring personnel to exit vehicles in dangerous locations to present to a physical access point. The method of access credential utilised for this safety data becomes extremely important as the risk of a missed movement can have real implications for personnel health and safety.
Navigating harsh environments and extreme conditions
Mining operations are harsh environments, with equipment susceptible to extreme amounts of fine dust, heat, heavy water flow, and damage from tools or machinery. Some mining environments may even require additional protection for devices where fire or explosion hazards exist. This can involve the use of specific materials or mounting certain devices within intrinsically safe enclosures.
When considering these conditions, equipment should be tested and certified with appropriate impact and ingress ratings, and this should be further evidenced and supported by the manufacturer through long product warranties. Reliable equipment ensures the system continues to do its job and the business continues to operate profitably while protecting its workforce.
System interfacing capability is crucial
Mine site operations are running 24/7 with large, complex workforces. To assist with the significant amount of onboarding, offboarding, access changes, and competency management of their workforce, automation through system interfacing is always recommended.
Commonly, this will involve interfaces with upstream systems. This often means multiple interfaces to cater to the different types of entities in the system, or the data that is being imported. It’s commonplace to automate the management of these entities, their access, and their inductions, qualifications, or licenses. This is done through interfaces with systems such as human resources/payroll, LMS (learning management systems), Active Directory, and contractor/workforce management packages. Such automation may be applied for visitors, employees, contractors, and vehicles.
This interfacing reduces the amount of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) personnel that are required to manage the system, reduces risk of data input errors, and ensures the segregation of duties by making sure that business policies are followed for all appropriate changes.
Mining operations are heavily reliant on data to identify and resolve risks, and to find operational efficiencies. It’s therefore also common for external systems to extract workforce activity from the access control system for population and analytical BI (business intelligence) reporting.
Vendor selection for access control in mining and resources should therefore hold a strong importance on the interface capabilities of the system.
Changing regulations and occupational health and safety requirements
Given the risks associated with mining operations, government legislation can be stringent but also differs immensely in different parts of the world. There has been an increase in concern around fatigue and exposure, and the need for reporting. Cases of corporate manslaughter against negligent management have certainly created more interest in systems that can demonstrate duty of care and protect workforces.
In many cases, not only do such system implementations meet those goals while ensuring business continuity, but they also demonstrate a reduction of operational cost through improved efficiency.
Having a system with governance, risk, and compliance solutions that can be tailored to meet changing requirements, without significant reinvestment, should be factored into vendor selection.
By working with their vendor, sites operating in unique conditions like that of mining, can design a system that is tailored to the specific needs of their site and ensures their health and safety requirements are met to the level they require.
For more information regarding Gallagher’s integrated security solutions, visit: https://security.gallagher.com/
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