The DrillSafe initiative will host its inaugural Drill Safe Drill Rig & Safety Innovation Forum at the Glen Hove Conference Centre, in Johannesburg, on July 20. The forum will explore innovations in drilling equipment and the exploration work environment, explains DrillSafe founder and Colin Rice Exploration & Training MD Colin Rice.
DrillSafe was first launched in 2013 to distribute accident and hazard alerts to the industry. “This required a high level of support from mining and exploration companies and this was not always available. As a result, the initiative lost momentum and so went into ‘hibernation’,” says Rice.
He explains that he reinstated the initiative in October last year because of his observations of the exploration drilling industry. “I am involved in the safety auditing of drilling operations and it has become very clear that the level of understanding of drill site hazards is very poor. We decided to restructure and relaunch the initiative, with the focus firmly on improving the level of understanding of drill site hazards.”
Apart from the forum, the initiative also publishes technical articles on major drill site hazards and the legal aspects pertaining to particular hazards.
Since the relaunch, Rice notes that DrillSafe has grown “at an incredible pace”, adding that its website was being visited by people in 113 countries worldwide, and citing “extremely encouraging” feedback from site visitors and members.
At the forum later this month, delegates can expect presentations from leading international and South African companies, as well as from the Mine Health and Safety Council Centre of Excellence.
“Like the mining industry, the exploration industry is asking that contractors begin to automate drill rigs and associated operations. The forum programme was based on fostering discussion around some of the more interesting and contentious modifications that mining companies are requesting,” says Rice.
He notes that, the DrillSafe initiative, essentially an inaugural event, is expecting about 100 delegates.
“We have three international speakers and our delegates are primarily from African countries. We also have several international companies sponsoring the event.”
These sponsors include South African drilling companies Master Drilling and Geoserve, Australian services company Imdex, South African equipment manufacturer Premier Drilling Equipment, multinational original-equipment manufacturer Sandvik, and US-based synthetic rope manufacturer Samson Ropes.
Rice states that the forum is aimed at anyone involved in exploration drilling activities, including geologists, safety managers, safety officers, contractors and particularly engineers responsible for drilling operations. “These individuals should attend . . . as they are the people responsible for implementing many of the innovations that we will discuss.”
Further, he notes that the forum aims to be a yearly event, with each year prioritising a different safety focus.
“Safety is of paramount importance in every industry and it is dynamic – we can never sit back and say we have done a good job – we have to constantly remind the industry of the risks and constantly strive for new ideas and equipment to mitigate risk,” Rice avers.
The DrillSafe initiative stresses that drill site safety centres on four cornerstones – the equipment, the environment, processes or activities associated with the operation and people. “The topics that will be discussed and debated at the forum focus on these four cornerstones and involve innovative modifications and ways of doing things. We have a strong focus on the people aspect of safety.”
Commenting on the recent mine safety incidents and their implication on the mining industry, Rice notes that there is a distinction between the extractive mining industry and the exploration drilling industry.
“In my opinion, most of the fatalities and accidents in the mining industry can be attributed to seismicity and human error. In the drilling industry, we are fortunate that we do have to deal with seismic events.”
Rice notes that almost every accident in an exploration drilling environment is related to human error. “Either someone forgot to do something or knowingly or unknowingly did something that she/he should not have done.”
He stresses that human error is more than likely a result of poor training, a poor mindset or both. “Our focus is to improve the levels of understanding and train people . . . the forum is just one method we’re employing to try to make a difference.”