What’s this!!! Safety issues?? I’m all ears………..
What’s the movie about? Let’s see…….
The movie “The 33” starts off displaying a fact, “Every year 12,000 miners die in mining accidents around the world.”
The 33, staring Antonio Banderas as Miner Mario Sepulveda, is a movie based on a true event of the 2010 mining disaster that occurred in Chile where thirty tree (33) men were trapped inside the San Jose Mine for more than two months. The movie in a nutshell depicts the catastrophic fall of the San Jose Mine and the tremendous ordeal faced by the thirty three (33) men that were trapped inside. This event is believed the have occurred due to the negligence of the Mine owners who ignored the warnings of the failing stability of the mine.
Throughout the movie there were obvious health and safety concerns:
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Hazards
Let’s start with the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) worn by the miners. At the beginning of the movie, the miners were seen wearing coveralls with reflective stripes, gloves, and eye protection while in the drilling process. However we noticed that while some wore the required footwear, some of the miners wore mere sneakers. This is of concern since sneakers cannot protect injury from occurring to the feet as a result of heavy falling objects in the mine, such as tonnes of gold. In addition, mine blasting and excessive noise generated by diesel-powered equipment can cause long lasting damage to the miner’s hearing. Earmuffs or earplugs were not always worn by the miners and this could have contributed to damaged ear drums or even hearing loss. Finally, the miners wore no dust masks or protective gear against the dust, taking into consideration the amount of floating dust in this type of environment. It was observed in the movie that when the miners were drilling for gold, there was a lot of dust and fine particles in the air. If dust masks were not used, over time the continuous inhalation of dust can cause the development of Miner’s Lung Disease or Sarcoidosis as mentioned in the movie. According to the OSH act of Trinidad and Tobago, all persons entering an area in an industrial organization where they are likely to be exposed to the risk of head, eye, ear, hand or foot injury, injury from air contaminant or any other bodily injury, shall be provided with suitable protective clothing or devices of an approved standard and adequate instructions in the use of such protective clothing or devices, and no person shall be permitted to be in any such area unless he is wearing such protective clothing or device. In order to mitigate the risk of injury from falling objects, contamination from the air and eardrum rupture, the mining company should take preventative care in ensuring that all miners wear the required protective gears at all time whilst on the job site; such as steel tipped boots, dusk masks and earplugs, in addition to the ones that are currently in use.
- The miners were transported to the mine via an open back truck. However, there were no straps or seat belts in place to prevent the miners from falling off the truck while in motion. This could have resulted in severe injury or death if someone had fallen off since the truck was moving at a relatively fast speed. The solution to this hazard would be to ensure all workers are seated safely on their seats and are strapped on to the seat to prevent them from falling off the truck. Also running a bar across the back of the truck where the miners could hold on to would have also provided added leverage to prevent them from slipping and falling.
- When the mountain finally gave in and the mine started to crumble there were two miners standing at the edge of a cliff and during the intense shaking, one of the miners fell off the cliff. There was no fencing blocking an individual from falling off the cliff. In this light, protective barriers should have been placed blocking off workers from any cliffs or dangerous areas in the mine. Signs should be placed notifying employees or visitors of dangerous/high risk or prohibited areas. On the topic of signage, even though there were signs indicating the ‘km’ on the way up, there were no signs such as “sharp corner”, “cautions” etc. The mine lacked proper hazard signage.
Emergency Exit Hazard
The passage way into the tunnel is the next area of concern. As the mineworkers were being driven into the job site, it was noted by one of the workers that there was only one way in and out of the mine. This would be a major issue when there is an emergency, especially in the case of this event where the only way in and out was where the heart of the mountain broke and fell, trapping the miners inside. A ladder leading to the top of the mountain inside the mine did not go all the way up as the ladders were not completed. The owners neglected their responsibility to provide an emergency exit for their workers because they refused to spend the money to complete the structure of the ladder all the way up to the top of the mountain. It is the duty of any organization to ensure that exit strategies are put in place in cases of an emergency, as such another convenient entry/exit into the mine to allow the workers multiple choices of exits when evacuating during an emergency should have been created. Multiple emergency exits prevent overcrowding in the case of an emergency as all workers would not be scampering to one exit. It is in situations like this that workers get injured as they can be trampled by others in a hurry to exit.
Negligence of the owners could have lead to Crush Hazard
- Let us capture the safety negligence of the dialogue taken from the movie below.
Mine Supervisor: I found this on level 3 (places piece of glass on the owners desk). We put this in the mountain cracks so we’ll know when the mountain shifts. A health check should be done on the ramp.
Owner: The ramp has about 20 years to go
Mine Supervisor: It’s my job to keep these men safe
Owner: Your other job is to keep these men pulling out 250 tonnes a day
Mine Supervisor: There is only so much gold in the mountain
Owner dismisses the supervisor and the conversation has ended without a suitable safety solution. According to the OSH Act the supervisor should have refused to work, thus protecting his workers from a crush hazard. The Act states: “An employee may refuse to work or do particular work where he has sufficient reason to believe that there is serious and imminent danger to himself or unusual circumstances have arisen which are hazardous or injurious to his health or life.” The employer should have evacuated the mine and proper research/inspection of the mountain shifting should have been done before resuming work in the mine.
• A scene at the end of the movie showed the men setting off an explosive in order to clear a pathway for the drills to pass through, so that the men can be reached. This was an obvious hazard to the men as they could have been injured in the process by falling rocks or even the mountain caving in on them. The explosives caused the mountain to shift resulting in the rock which weighed approximately 7000 tonnes above where they were located to start sinking. It was only a matter of time before the rock fell which would have caused death to all the men as the rock was described as two times the size of the Empire State Building sitting above their head. However, even though unsafe, the men saw this act as a life or death situation as it was the only way of getting out. As said by a miner, “We are all ready to get out of here, or die trying.”
When the miners reached the job site, it was noted that the temperature was 90 degrees Fahrenheit and as they entered their holding areas, the temperature rose to 94 degrees Fahrenheit. This could lead to having a variety of negative effects on the employees such as heat stress, hypoxia, burns and anoxia. Heat stress could result in the mineworkers experiencing heat stroke, exhaustion, cramps, rash and fatigue. To minimize these effects, the mining company should have installed proper ventilation, such as fans, throughout the workplace to help workers deal with the intensive heat and provide climate cool protective clothing for their workers. Air quality sensors should be put in place in order to detect irregular levels of Carbon Monoxide and other potentially toxic fumes, vapour and gases.
Lighting Ergonomics Hazard
For general tunnelling operations, a minimum illumination intensity of 5 foot-candles is required, although 10 foot-candles must be provided for shaft heading during drilling. The mine displayed no evidence of such, as the area was poorly lit which could have caused difficulty in the miners being able to see during the drilling process. In addition, there was lack of communication systems in the mine. There were no telephones and other signalling devices used, such as radios, were not fully operational. It is critical to the company to ensure that these devices are operational in the event of an unexpected incident or accident.
Health and Safety Kit Hazard
In the movie, after the mine collapsed, the men went looking for medical supplies to treat their wounds. However, all they found was an empty first aid kit. This is a direct breach of the OSH Act which states that fully equipped first-aid boxes or cupboards should be provided and maintained so as to be readily accessible during all working hours and that each first-aid box or cupboard shall be under the control of responsible persons who are trained in first-aid treatment and retested every three years and who shall always be readily available during the working hours of the factory. To add to the plight, none of the miners were trained to use the first aid treatment even if it was fully equipped. This is a hazard to the welfare of the workers.
After the collapse, the workers decided that the safest place to be was the refuge. This is where they would wait until hopefully rescue teams will be sent to their aid. However, there were 33 men trapped in the mine and the refuge was built for 30. This hazard can cause problems with space to fit everyone and also the supplies in the room would have been designed for 30 men in ideal situations. The Osh act suggests that an industrial establishment shall not be so overcrowded as to cause risk of injury to the health of the persons employed therein and a notice specifying the number of persons who may, under the provisions of this section, be employed in that room should be posted. Given the circumstances, the miners were not given a choice but to all stay at the refuge. To eliminate the hazard of overcrowding the company should have made provisions to ensure that no more than thirty (30) men were on a job at the same time or make a larger refuge or a second refuge suitable to accommodate the amount of men.
Emergency Evacuation Plan and Procedures
When the mine collapsed, it was apparent that the men had no evacuation plan in place in the case of an emergency, as the men were seen scampering in all different directions. A muster point was absent. Periodic disaster evacuation drills and testing emergency communication and signalling system prepares workers on what to do if there’s an emergency, therefore the owners should have better prepared the men for evacuation in an emergency. The act spits out that all industries should have in place a suitable evacuation plan which the employees must be trained to follow protocols in case of an emergency. In addition, given the number of hours it took the rescue team to reach the site after the collapse it shows that the owners had no back up emergency plans for unforeseen emergencies such as this. As stated by the owner of the mine, “No protocols were put in place because he didn’t believe if something like that happened that anyone would survive.” The men were trapped in the mine from August 5th to October 13th, 69 days. It took the government’s intervention to get the men out of the mine. This was done using a capsule built that can fit a human. Under the circumstances the capsule was the only way to get the men out, however the men were 700 meters under, thus on the way up there were risks of the men losing oxygen, the shaft caving in or even getting stuck. To prevent loss of oxygen the rescue team could have provided oxygen masks for the miners. Another problem that occurred was the inability to communicate individually with the mine workers when they were in the capsule. This was evident in the movie when the rescue team lost communication via video feed with the first mine worker in the capsule. In order to avoid this problem they could have attached a microphone and/or ear piece to be used in the capable for speaking with each worker when they were in the process of coming up. By doing this, they would be able to guide the mine workers through the process and keep them calm since some of them suffered from various conditions such as heart diseases and kidney failure.
The “Pheonix” – Capsule used to transport the men out of the mine
Emergency Food and Water
In the movie, it was noted that assuming the men were alive there were only food and water to last three (3) days. As said by a miner upon the count of food remaining , there were only 18 cans of tuna left, that is 165 grams a can, 33 men, that’s 90 grams per man, one half (1/2) and a little more for the rest of their lives. The emergency food supply lacked the amount required to suit 33 men and there was only enough food to last them three (3) days. The owners should have ensured that there were proper supplies of food and proper drinking water to last at least months to be prepared for unforeseen emergencies such as this event.
The living conditions of the men for the two months trapped in the mine cause mental instability and hallucinations in some of the men. Stuck with only three (3) days food in a place described as being 100 degrees, like a tomb, the tragedy was a challenge to these men who made it out alive.
Mine managers and individual miners need to adhere strictly to operational safety procedures. Employers need to provide the right tools and training to every employee to protect life, health, and safety of the workforce, as well as to protect valuable worksites and assets.
Safety is an aspect that many individuals (Employees) do not pay particular attention towards, especially in the working physical environment. Workers are mainly concerned with completing tasks efficiently by doing so they completely disregard safety and risks involved. Educating the workforce about safety is very important however when it comes to the employees implementing the techniques, much more effort and initiative is needed.
This blog makes us all think of how many things we do wrongly in the eyes of safety and how many things we ignore but need to look out for in every environment that we are in. Remember “Safety First” Until next time….. OSHABOSSES
Wanna learn more about this event?????……. follow the link below