Self-rescuers within a local grasp

MineARC Systems has partnered with DEZEGA to protect miners when nothing else can ensure their safety. Safe to Work looks into the collaboration and what it will bring to the Australian mining industry.

MineARC Systems has shown an unrelenting ambition to secure the health and safety of mine workers in even greater numbers.

Now, the refuge chamber specialist has partnered with European company DEZEGA to distribute self-contained self-rescuers (SCSRs) and self-contained breathing-apparatus (SCBAs) worldwide.

SCSRs are mandatory in underground mines, but are not manufactured in Australia.

The collaboration between DEZEGA and MineARC is expected to bring the supply of SCSRs closer to Australian mines where local stock has not previously been available.

“DEZEGA is unique in that it not only has bespoke self-rescuer products, but it also manufactures closed-circuit breathing apparatus,” MineARC chief innovation officer Brent Pearce tells Safe to Work.

“The company has 60 years of pedigree in respiratory protective equipment, and to date there are over 500,000 DEZEGA self-rescuers standing by, ready to protect miners worldwide.

“Our distributorship means that we can provide this very critical piece of equipment in a much shorter lead time when they’re needed urgently, as we can offer local stock.”

Not only will MineARC be a distributor of DEZEGA products, it will also make services, including maintenance and inspections available.

This is backed up by the geographical strength of MineARC, whose offices are spread across six locations outside of Australia: in South Africa, Chile, Mexico China, Europe and the United States.

“We will be supporting our partnership with DEZEGA locally by having stock and 24/7 support services available. We’ll also provide local training for the use of SCSRs, which is very important,” Pearce says.

“That’s industry standard and part of our arrangement with DEZEGA. This is the level of support and service we’re bringing to the table with the distributorship, in ways that have never been done in the past.”

Like rescue life jackets on aircrafts, it is hoped that SCSRs will never be needed, but they do require training as it is difficult to predict employee behaviour during an emergency.

This training is, therefore, aimed at developing learned behaviour to maximise their chance of survival.

This by no means speaks of the efficiency of DEZEGA SCSRs, which triumph with the addition of an automatic self-starter.

As soon as a user cracks the lid, the starter device will provide breathable gas amid irrespirable atmospheres that may pose an immediate danger to life and health.

It takes less than 15 seconds to put on a DEZEGA SCSR, an industry best practice time compared with the 30 seconds it takes to put on other conventional self-rescuers.

“Normally, users need to deeply breathe into the system, but imagine how challenging that must be in a hazardous or smoky environment,” Pearce says.

“With the DEZEGA self-rescuers, that’s already done for you. You can simply put it on and make your way to the refuge chamber.

“DEZEGA self-rescuers have proven time and time again that they’re the best units when they need to operate.

“When we talk about the wear, the ease of use, the reliability and the lower temperature you breathe in, there is evidence of DEZEGA’s track record after producing seven million self-rescuers since 1966.”

Through this partnership and service, MineARC helps to ensure that underground personnel are not only sheltered and protected during an emergency, but they can also get to the refuge chamber safely. This also applies to the emergency response team members during a rescue mission.

“The DEZEGA distributorship and partnership effectively brackets the two key stages in a mine emergency response, with the refuge chambers being the centrepiece of that,” Pearce says.

“Our role is to support personnel underground in any way possible so they can be kept safe.”

Another thing in common between MineARC and DEZEGA is their focus on research and development (R&D).

DEZEGA prides itself on having a modern R&D centre that develops the experience of the All-Union Research & Development Institute of Mine Rescue “Respirator” and engineering departments of the plants.

While the mining industry has advanced notably in digitalisation and automation over the years, SCSRs have progressed at a slower pace, despite working to facilitate escape for miners, workers and other civilians in life-threatening situations.

“These units are only used in the worst of circumstances where the atmosphere is non-breathable,” says MineARC business development manager for emergency response products, Leon Mussell, who is also a 15-year veteran in mine rescue.

“Making rapid change in that area takes a lot of time and research as you have many certification requirements to adhere to.”

Nevertheless, like MineARC, DEZEGA invests heavily in R&D. Pearce says the partnership will lead to the supply of safety and environmentally friendly products down the track, ultimately making underground work safer.

It throws an extra lifeline to miners when situations are far from within their control.

This article also appears in the Sep–Oct edition of Safe to Work.