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