Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has a long and storied evolution in the mining industry. There are a number of potential risks in a mine, and it is always crucial that these are identified and managed to maximise safety. After implementing sufficient controls and risk management, utilising PPE is the final piece in the puzzle to protect miners from hazards.
Safety is the most important priority in any mine, and advancements in PPE over the last decade have reflected a culture that has adopted a growing “safety first” mentality. Examples of PPE that protect miners from risk include gloves, foot and eye protection, protective hearing devices (earplugs, muffs), hard hats, respirators, and full-body suits.
Tim Maddison, Managing Director of Maddison Safety, gave an insight into how he noticed PPE trends change over the past 10 years. The most significant changes that Tim identified were “probably seeing some of the more technical products evolve and end up becoming a general purpose or commonly used product. Cut Resistant gloves were fairly rare a decade ago, now they are one of our biggest sellers. Fire-resistant workwear is worn by a larger percentage of the workforce and has become lighter and easier to wear.”
On boots, Tim said, “work boots are now designed by podiatrists and are light and comfortable”.
Despite these developments in PPE technology, Tim noted the further improvements required to ensure that continued safety is prioritised. Tim said that some companies simply use the term ‘PPE’ in order to sell their product, and are unaware of the importance of standards compliance. This means it is important for consumers to educate themselves on their individual requirements and look for the products and brands that effectively meet their needs.
Maddison Safety’s message has been the same for three decades, “If you are serious about keeping yourself and your workers safe, use a reputable safety company who supports the products that they supply.”
Penny Crawford, the founder of Crawford Boots, has extensive experience in podiatry which allowed her to pinpoint an important area in PPE that was not being addressed: proper fitting waterproof footwear.
“In my 30 year career as a podiatrist, a lot of my patients were miners who were facing issues with their feet as a result of subpar waterproof footwear protection on site. The boots they were wearing simply weren’t good enough and their bodies were suffering as a consequence.
“Poor footwear can cause a range of problems for the rest of your body – not just your feet. This can include issues and pain from the knee to the hip, lower back, and even the neck. There was a clear gap in the market for waterproof footwear that addressed the comfort & fit issues associated with gumboots.”
This led Penny to use her knowledge to revitalise PPE footwear and create the next-generation Crawford Boots. The development of her innovative waterproof industrial safety boots was all about finding a solution to a problem – building a boot that has the fit, safety, and comfort of a leather lace-up boot with the waterproof capabilities of a gumboot.
“This had to be footwear that would provide the ultimate in comfort and protection and withstand all harsh workplace conditions.”
Penny noted that adhering to the Australian Safety Standards was a rigorous procedure at times, showing that the requirements for PPE are often lengthy, but also important.
“It was an interesting process and something I needed to learn and understand. The advantage of having read through every ISO, EN, CSA, ASTM, AS & NZ standard relevant to occupational protective footwear is that I was able to become an expert and finetune the development process.”
On what the future of PPE looks like, Penny said, “This is a space where innovation is welcomed & recognised, so it will be interesting to see what the future holds.”