GeoDrilling International: A case study of drill site safety management in South Africa

Published in the July/August 2017 edition of GeoDrilling International

Managing safety

Colin Rice, of Colin Rice Exploration & Training, describes a case study of drill site safety management in South Africa

Drill site safety has assumed an increasingly important role in South African exploration projects over the past eight years, and much of the increased focus on safety has been due to very onerous legislation that regulates operations. In South Africa, an exploration borehole is deemed to be a ‘mine’, and so all exploration drilling activities are regulated by the Mine Health and Safety Act. As the name suggests, the act was written to regulate mining activities and not drilling operations – in fact, the word ‘drilling’ appears only once. Nonetheless, all exploration activities must fully comply, and all persons involved in any exploration activity are subject to the very arduous requirements and the significant penalties that are prescribed in the act. Because there is no reference to drilling operations, mining companies have had to interpret the requirements of the act and then apply them to their respective exploration operations. Understandably, different mining companies interpret the requirements differently, and so several interpretations exist, and it is not uncommon that equipment deemed to be compliant at one mine is deemed to be non-compliant at another. This has caused confusion between contractors and their customers.

SOLVING A PROBLEM

Approximately six years ago, Colin Rice Exploration & Training was approached by a major mining company to conduct a safety audit on a 33-rig exploration drilling project. It involved rotary-percussion drilling, and both wireline and large-diameter conventional core drilling. Three contractors were awarded work on the project, and so the auditing project involved many different types of equipment operated by crews with a wide range of competencies. Most significantly, there were three companies with varying levels of understanding of the fundamentals of safety management and very different attitudes to drill-site safety. The contractor had very little idea of its legal responsibilities or of the consequences if it fell foul of the law. Previous safety audits had been done by safety officers from the mine, and often the officer reported issues that were frivolous, while serious safety issues were not identified. It was clear that the quality of the audit was directly related to the level of drilling experience of the safety officer, and so it was common that different officers would inspect the same operation and arrive at different findings. Consequently, conflicts grew more frequent – the contractor was viewed as ‘the problem’, and safety personnel appeared to be on a crusade to stop the contractor from working for whatever reason they could find. It was clear that the safety management system had to become more consistent and comprehensive, and so a project was started to develop a set of drill site safety standards that would cover all aspects of a drilling operation. From these standards, a set of standardised safety inspection checklists would be developed that would be used by both the mine personnel and the contractor to conduct inspections. The first step was the development of a drill-site safety standard, it had to:

  • interpret and include all legal requirements;
  • include all ‘best practice’ in cases where the legal requirement was insufficient;
  • include requirements for all drilling methods and techniques;
  • be easily understandable; and,
  • eliminate or reduce the level of subjectivity required in doing a safety inspection.

The development of the standard went through many iterations before it was considered complete, but at every stage it was shared with the contractors and the checklists were used in the safety inspection process. Since the contractor was included in the process, it took ownership and the development of the highest-quality standards became easy. In addition, because the contractor and safety officer used the same checklists to do their safety inspections, there were no surprises. 

SAFETY STANDARDS

Drill site safety has four components, so the standards are developed in four sections:

  • Equipment: requirements for the drill rig, compressor, booster, water pump, mud-mixing facility, rod trucks and support trucks, welding machines, diesel and water bowsers.
  • Environment: general requirements while mobilising, drilling and during rehabilitation.
  • Personnel: requirements for crew and supervisor training and competence assessment.
  • Procedures: requirements for all routine and non-routine operations. 

The inspection checklist asks a simple question directly related to each of the requirements in the standards document – the safety inspector merely has to tick a box: yes, no or not checked. The way in which the questions are framed eliminates subjectivity, and because every aspect of the operation is included in the checklist, the inspection is comprehensive. 

Three separate checklists are used at different stages of the drilling operation. A pre-deployment inspection is done by a competent inspector, preferably at the contractor’s workshop, before the equipment leaves for site. In this way, any defects can be remedied in the workshop by qualified staff rather than at the mine. Once the drill and all ancillary equipment is on-site, set-up and ready, a pre-operation inspection is done. This will check issues that could not be inspected at the workshop; barricading, sump layout, lifting tackle and rod racking, for example, will all be checked. If all is in order, the inspector will authorise the contractor to start drilling. A periodic checklist is used on a weekly or biweekly basis and focuses on checking aspects of equipment that require regular maintenance and repair such as the core barrel, overshots, hoist cables, chuck jaws, quill rods, rotation-head guides, etc. This inspection also checks and verifies operating procedures. Initially the contractors pushed against the implementation of a safety standard. However, it did not take long for them to recognise that the process had many advantages. Firstly, it levelled the playing field – all contractors had to conform to the standard, and so pricing of contracts was much more comparable than was previously the case. Contractors also began to realise that improved levels of safety did not hinder productivity. Probably the greatest improvement was in the relationship between the contractor and the mining company; the contractor and the mine knew exactly what the requirements were and so there were no surprises when a safety inspection was done. Consequently, the contractor became a part of the solution to the problem.

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New e-learning opportunities

Due to the interest in the current courses, Colin Rice Exploration and Training is proud to announce that we will be providing e-learning opportunities for our Drill Site Supervisor Course in the near future.

There are currently no Drill Site Supervisor training courses available in South Africa and so this course has been developed to address this serious deficiency. The course will focus on improving the knowledge, skills and attitudes of Supervisors and Site Managers involved in exploration drilling projects.

More information about the Drill Site Supervisor course in the current format can be found here.
 

The South African Exploration Drilling Forum

The Second South African Exploration Drilling Forum was held on the 24th July 2014 and was hosted by DICASA in association with Kumba Iron Ore.

Please see below for more information on the agenda and presentations.

Thank you to the other sponsors of this event - Thor Drill Rig CC and Reflex Limited.

Industry requires formal skills recognition

Mining Weekly Article

By: Jonathan Rodin

Sixty-two mining industry stakeholders, including mining company representatives, drilling contractors and equipment suppliers, last month attended the first South African Exploration Drilling Forum, initiated by iron-ore mining major Kumba Iron Ore, in association with the Drilling Industry Certification Authority of South Africa (Dicasa) – an association of drilling contractors established in 2010 to develop an assessment and certification framework for drillers and drill-rig assistants.

The purpose of the forum was to provide a platform for role-players in the exploration industry to begin discussing issues of common interest.

Dicasa chairperson Colin Rice used the forum to present recent developments in the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) initiative for a new driller qualification as well.

Rice highlighted these developments as significant to the industry as, despite the importance of exploration drilling, there are no nationally recognised drilling qualifications currently in the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).

As a result, operational staff with a lifetime of experience have no means of having their skills formally recognised, no clear career path and goals and no means of enhancing their level of understanding of the processes in which they are involved.

Further, as is the case with many other industries in South Africa, the drilling industry is an ageing one, so attracting new entrants to the industry is critically important.

As a representative of Dicasa members’ interests in the QCTO driller qualification initiative, Rice emphasises the importance of the QCTO, as it is responsible for the design, development and maintenance of occupational standards and qualifications, thereby ensuring the quality of workplace education and training in South Africa.

He explains that the purpose of an occupational qualification is to qualify a learner for occupational practice, as well as occupational specialisation.

Rice tells Mining Weekly that, because of the nature of exploration operations, it is essential that the new driller qualification is practical and applicable, and that it recognises the wide range of specialised skills in the South African drilling industry.

He adds that a driller qualification must, eventually, become a qualification that convincingly proves a learner’s competence as a driller.

Rice adds that sector education and training authority the Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA) has been appointed by the QCTO to develop the driller qualification and, over the past year, a significant amount of good work has been completed under the auspices of the qualification development facilitator.

He says that, while the work is not yet available for public comment, the interests and requirements of the exploration industry have been well catered for, and he believes that the new qualification will play a big role in taking the industry into the future.

Rice explains that the mining industry, and therefore the exploration industry, is under pressure to improve health and safety performance. He adds that this pressure has been responsible for several industry initiatives that seek to meet mining house expectations, including the new driller qualification.

Rice also highlights DrillSafe – another initiative launched by Colin Rice Exploration and Training – as a means of disseminating hazard and accident alerts in the exploration drilling industry. This initiative has been recognised as important as there is currently no formal reporting or recording mechanism for exploration industry incidents and accidents.

Rice tells Mining Weekly that a second Drilling Forum is planned for later in the year.

Edited by: Samantha Herbst

Creamer Media Deputy Editor

Safe Drilling

Geodrilling International Article

South Africa-based Colin Rice Exploration and Training launched its safety initiative DrillSafe earlier this year.

Even with tightening of safety regulations and legislation, drill sites undoubtedly still pose hazards to operational staff members. To manage the risks involved, staff needs to possess the necessary skills and knowledge to work safely on an active drill site.

In an example of an accident alert from DrillSafe, the Southern African Drilling Industry Safety Forum, a security guard was ‘press-ganged’ into working as a drillrig assistant because the regular member of the drill crew was sick; the guard was consequently injured in a foot-clamp accident.

The injured man had not undergone any training to prepare him for the work being done, nor was he made aware of the hazards on the drill site or in possession of all the requisite personal protective equipment at the time of the accident. The foot clamp that caused the accident was also modified without approval of the manufacturer.

The accident alert’s recommendations confirm that it is crucial for operational staff to be adequately trained and assessed before being allowed to work on a drill site.

Colin Rice Exploration and Training introduced the DrillSafe initiative in May 2013, with the aim of spreading awareness about health and safety issues surrounding the exploration drilling industry, and creating “a health- and safety-conscious community that shares information, learning and a passion for a safer drilling industry”.

The mission of DrillSafe

  • To create an online forum to facilitate the exchange of information between all stakeholders in the exploration drilling industry;
  • To disseminate health and safety information for the purposes of creating a safer exploration drilling environment;
  • To create a database of exploration-related incident statistics.

Safety standards

Colin Rice Exploration and Training, founded by Colin Rice in 2010, offers consulting and training services to the exploration drilling industry. Its courses are aimed at people at every level of an exploration project, including drillers, drill-rig assistants, supervisors, drilling managers and geologists.

Rice became involved with drilling when he emigrated to South Africa in 1984 and became involved in the development of drilling fluids for the exploration drilling industry. He was a founder partner in SA Mud Services, later SAMCHEM, and has been actively involved in many aspects of the southern African drilling industry for the past 29 years.

Throughout his career, he has always had a keen interest in improving the level of understanding of drilling principles through training and was responsible for setting up the National Diploma, Drilling Practice Course at Technikon SA in 1989. He has been delivering drilling- and exploration-related courses at a number of institutions and in a number of southern African countries for the past 23 years. He was instrumental in launching the Drilling Industry Certification Authority of South Africa (DICASA) and serves as chairman of the association.

“In the past five to six years there has been an increasing level of demand for contracting companies to comply with revised mining health and safety legislation.

“Unfortunately, all legislation is written for mining operations, and so there has been a very inconsistent application of perceived legal requirements by mining and exploration companies,” Colin Rice says.

“This has led to a great deal of confusion in the industry, and so led by Kumba Iron Ore, Colin Rice Exploration developed a set of drill-site safety standards that cover the essential requirements in terms of equipment, personnel, environmental and procedural issues on exploration drill sites.”

Training courses

Colin Rice Exploration and Training runs approximately five public exploration drill-site safety courses and three to four drilling-methods courses per year. Safety courses can also be arranged for specific companies based on demand.

The drill-site safety course was launched in 2011, and to date 14 courses have been run with more than 320 delegates attending. The drilling-methods courses have attracted delegates from almost every African country and even some from Russia, Brazil and Argentina.

“Our exploration drill-site safety course was developed in response to overwhelming demand from mining and exploration companies conducting exploration projects. Increasing SHE [safety, health and environmental] requirements from mining and exploration houses has resulted in geologists and safety professionals having to make decisions about safety issues for which they are not necessarily prepared, and so this programme is designed to fill this very real gap,” explains Rice.

The course is designed to provide delegates with the necessary understanding of the physical aspects of drilling, drill-rig operation, capacities of drilling equipment, modes of failure and other important foundation information. The principles learned at the course can be applied to any drilling method – diamond core drilling, rotary percussion drilling, dual-tube reverse-circulation drilling and sonic drilling. The exploration drill-site safety course also outlines important legal elements, the principles of risk assessment, identifying drill-site hazards and using safety audits based on standardised checklists.

“South African mining companies have come a very long way in recent years in improving their levels of compliance with legal requirements and some companies now far exceed the requirements. Undoubtedly, training of safety professionals and site staff to identify realhazards on drill sites remains the biggest challenge that we face in South Africa. The safety training programmes that we offer are designed to close this gap,” Rice comments.

Geodrilling International - October 2013

www.geodrillinginternational.com

Exploration drilling training provider launches safety forum

Mining Weekly Article

By: Chantelle Kotzé

Exploration drilling training provider Colin Rice Exploration & Training reports that it launched a Safety Forum last month to help prevent accidents and incidents from taking place in the exploration drilling industry.

As a collector and disseminator of information, the forum aims to create a community of assistance.

“South Africa neither collects nor dis- seminates safety, accident and incident information for the exploration drilling industry,” Colin Rice Exploration & Training founder Colin Rice tells Mining Weekly.

The Safety Forum has thus been established to act as a repository of safety information and data. In response to increasing pressure over the last four years from nongovernmental organisations and government on mining companies to improve their mines’ health and safety performance, Rice urges the exploration industry, which is a support service to the mining industry, to play a role in improving drill-site safety performance.

Drilling is a critical part of the mining industry, with exploration drilling usually taking place quite some distance from the mine and not, therefore, falling under traditional mining regulations.

“For a long time, exploration drilling escaped the scrutiny of the mining company, but, in recent years, these activities have been brought into focus,” he says.

Training in the exploration industry is key in undertaking drilling operations that are safe, compliant and in line with the mining operation; however, Rice adds that exploration-drilling training is currently nonexistent, as there are no nationally certified exploration-drilling training courses available in South Africa.

Colin Rice Exploration & Training has been working for the past three years to develop a series of drilling training programmes with the Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA) with little success.

Rice adds that, while there is a need to have the training courses certified by the MQA or one of the sector education and training authorities, the industry cannot afford to wait for the formal certification processes to take place and so the company aims to entirely fill the training gap in the exploration-drilling industry this year, which would include driller and drill-supervisor training courses.

“The more momentum our courses gain, the easier it will be for MQA accreditation to follow,” says Rice.

Drilling Courses

The drill-site supervisor, from a health and safety perspective, is the key person on site; therefore, the drill-site supervisor course will focus on improving the attitude, knowledge and skills in a range of fields specific to the exploration-drilling projects in which supervisors and site managers are involved.

The course will cover geology, drilling methods, drilling engineering, plant fundamentals, drilling economics, drill-site safety and hazard identification, as well as diamond drilling. It will comprise eight modules that will be delivered on a self-study basis with weekly contact sessions spread over ten weeks. Contact sessions will run from 8:00 to 16:00, one day a week, in major mining areas such as Rustenburg and Witbank for the duration of the course, with the last day allocated for the assessment of attendees.

The courses were developed over 11 months and will be launched next month, says Rice.

The first supervisor programme will be presented at a venue in the Rustenburg area, while further programmes will be offered in other areas of the country later this year, based on demand.

Meanwhile, the driller course is aimed specifically at improving the skills, knowledge and attitudes of operational exploration staff to sharpen their ability to identify drill-site hazards.

The driller course will be presented on the same basis as the drill-site supervisor course, with the same ten-week structure. The modules comprise surface drilling equipment, ancillary surface-drilling equipment, tubular equipment, drilling fluids, drill-site safety and first aid and fire fighting.

Drill-Site Safety

“A need arose about three years ago for a specific exploration-drilling safety course to be launched, with specific focus on safety in the exploration-drilling industry,” says Rice.

This prompted the launch of the company’s drill-site safety course in June 2011. To date, the company has successfully hosted 11 of these courses, with an attendance figure of about 275 people.

Demand for the exploration drill-site safety course is high, which highlights the need for the four, or possibly five, additional courses planned for the year.

“One of the key issues in any drill-site safety exercise is the ability to identify hazards. This cannot be done if there is no understanding of the processes involved in drilling operations and the course is aimed at accomplishing exactly this,” he explains.

The first day of the course is designed to provide the necessary understanding of the physical aspects of drilling, the drill-rig operation, the capacities of drilling equipment, the modes of failure and other important foundational information. The emphasis of the second day is on the application of the principles learned during the first day to identify drill-site hazards.

Further, the course is designed to teach how the principles learned could be applied to any drilling method, such as diamond-core drilling, rotary-percussion drilling, dual-tube reverse-circulation drilling, sonic drilling and even production drilling operations.

Meanwhile, Rice notes that the mining industry is currently experiencing a downturn. However, safety in mining remains of critical importance – hence, attendance for the courses remains good.

He adds that the courses are critical to South Africa’s drilling future as the industry is facing increased job threats from imported labour. “It is our imperative to create jobs and upskill local employees. It is a priority to develop people instead of replacing them with automatic machinery.”

Drilling-Techniques Course

The company, with the support of the Geological Society of South Africa (GSSA), has also been conducting a three-day drilling-techniques course aimed at geologists, engineers and people involved in exploration drilling.

The courses are presented three or four times a year, as required by the GSSA, and forms part of its continued professional development (CPD) programme in which attendees earn CPD points.

The course provides a practical overview of all aspects of exploration drilling for practising geologists and other professionals and includes topics such as drilling fundamentals, drilling methods, simultaneous casing systems, common drilling calculations, the use of drilling fluids, the fundamentals of borehole surveying and directional drilling, core orientation methods and the economic aspects of drilling, as well as common drilling problems.

“In South Africa, a young geologist is exposed primarily to theory training and in very few cases do graduates get to see a fully operational drill rig. This course is aimed at highlighting some of the more practical aspects of geology,” says Rice.

People from all over the world and most African countries, including Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, have attended the courses.

Companies that have attended the course in the past include diversified miners Anglo American and Rio Tinto, mining major BHP Billiton, platinum mining company Impala Platinum, mining equipment and service provider Sandvik Mining, gold producer Harmony Gold, resources group Exxaro and JSE-listed Kumba Iron Ore.

Legislation

As a significant and proactive step to improve safety on drill sites, Colin Rice Exploration & Training would like to create a set of universal exploration drill-site safety regulations for the industry in South Africa.

Rice says that, while the South African exploration drilling industry is regulated by the Mine Health and Safety Act, drilling is not mentioned in the Act.

“The legislation that applies to the industry is not written to include drilling specifically, but is instead written to regulate mining as a whole. “What typically ensues is that exploration drilling activities are viewed as general mining activities and, very often, the wrong decision on how risks should be mitigated is taken,” he explains.

Creating its own exploration-drilling safety standard is the real drive for the exploration drilling industry.

Colin Rice Exploration & Training works closely with Kumba and has drawn up a detailed drill-site safety standard for the mining company.

“Kumba is undoubtebly the leading mining company in the country in terms of its approach to improving health and safety on exploration projects,” says Rice.

To create the standard, legislation that applies specifically to exploration drilling was extracted and converted into a drilling standard that relates spe- cifically to the South African exploration industry.

It is expected that the document will be adopted by Kumba and will result in all the mine’s exploration operations being evaluated according to this standard.

Rice hopes that this will encourage other mining companies to get on board in establishing a universal South African drill-site safety standard.

The company has also considered entering the African market, which has a significant training demand, as some countries also do not have a nationally recognised training programme.

To date, the company has conducted a trial course in Zambia and is in negotiations to conduct training in Mozambique and Tanzania, which would enable African countries to become involved in creating a safer exploration industry.

“We aim to eventually provide training for all of the African countries,” says Rice.

In the long term, the company aims to establish South Africa as an exploration- drilling training hub for the rest of Africa.

“The drilling industry is advancing at a fairly rapid pace in terms of new technologies and new equipment. Through the creation of a drilling-technology centre in South Africa, local drilling technologies can be developed while upskilling the industry,” enthuses Rice.

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