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Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
Print version ISSN 0038-223X

J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. vol.114 n.11 Johannesburg Nov. 2014




Strategy towards a mining industry-wide Buy-and-Maintain Quiet initiative to reduce noise induced hearing loss



H. GumedeI; K. BlomerusI; D. CouttsII; J. DeBeerIII

IChamber of Mines (RSA)
IIHarmony Gold




The challenges of noise emission in the mining industry are well known. These challenges are exacerbated by the increasing trend towards mechanized mining, and there is general consensus that an effective industry-wide Buy Quiet initiative (BQI) will significantly assist in reducing noise-induced hearing loss by minimizing noise at its source. In its endeavours to improve the health of workers, the MOSH Noise Team has facilitated development of a proposed strategy and structure for a BQI. Extensive consultation with stakeholders resulted in support for the initiative. The MOSH Noise Team was advised to solicit the contributions of consulting mechanical and electrical engineers (CM&EEs), whose support is viewed as critical for realization of the initiative, since elimination of noise at source is an engineering challenge, and most procurement standards and specifications are set and managed by engineers. A workshop with CM&EEs and their representatives, as well as group environmental engineers (GEEs), confirmed the urgent need for the initiative and provided valuable insights. The workshop used obstacle-based planning techniques to identify the factors on which the success of this BQI will depend. Most potential obstacles to the implementation revolved around proper scoping, leadership commitment, and companies' adherence to the initiative. Lack of involvement by the relevant stakeholders and economic issues were also identified as potential obstacles. Delegates at the workshop felt that the successful implementation of the industry-wide BQI, will depend on the mining industry addressing the specific obstacles. The most critical and urgent issue was identified as the formation of a properly constituted industry-wide BQI task team that includes representatives from critical stakeholder groups and which is mandated and empowered to drive the initiative.

Keywords: occupational safety and health, noise-induced hearing loss, noise reduction, Buy Quiet initiative.




The mining industry's zero harm vision and 2013 health and safety milestones demonstrate the commitment that mining companies have made towards elimination of noise hazards in the workplace. There is a general consensus that the challenge requires more than a willing and able occupational health practitioner supported by personalized PPE, and that the industry will have to focus most of its energies on the elimination of noise at source. This is no simple and easy task, and will require leadership involvement across the industry in addressing noise hazards.

The CoM MOSH Learning Hub Noise Team has been promoting an industry-wide Buy Quiet initiative (BQI). In the last decade, individual mining companies have established Buy Quiet policies, albeit with limited success. Unless industry partners with and motivates suppliers to invest specifically in the development of quieter equipment, efforts to eliminate noise hazards will remain reactive. It has now become imperative for the mining industry to embrace the challenge and develop an industry-wide BQI that will create a 'step change' in noise management and reduction.

Various critical stakeholders, including the Learning Hub, group environmental engineers (GEEs), the MOSH Task Team, mine professional associations (MPAs), independent consultants, the MOSH Noise Team sponsor, and consulting mechanical and electrical engineers (CM&EEs) have been consulted regarding this initiative, and all confirmed the need for it and pledged support. It is widely believed that the CM&EEs is the critical industry group in this initiative, because noise elimination at source is largely an engineering function and most procurement standards fall under the responsibilities of engineers.

An industry-wide Buy Quiet commitment is required, and for it to succeed a firm decision from mining companies to procure only equipment and machinery that complies with specific noise emission standards is essential. The motivation for an industry-wide Buy Quiet commitment is based on the following factors:

> In the last decade, individual mining companies that have established Buy Quiet policies have met with limited success

> While individual Buy Quiet policies from mining companies do help, it is only through the collective demand of the mining industry that suppliers will be motivated to focus on noise reduction as a critical part of their product development and performance

> In order for industry to be sustainable in future, and owing to the effects of globalization, the mining industry is going to become even more mechanized. Therefore it is imperative to manage noise at the design stage of the machinery/equipment. With equipment life of 5 to 10 years or longer, industry must become proactive and play a collective facilitative role towards 'real innovation' that can significantly lower noise at source. Industry-wide cooperation with suppliers will create a win-win result for both parties, as suppliers that already meet the legal requirements will have the potential to offset their development costs against a potential increase in market share

> Industry has spent a substantial amount of money over the last decade in compensation for the hearing loss induced by high noise levels emitted by machinery. Profitability and sustainability challenges make this scenario going forward very expensive. The financial impact could be even greater if companies are faced with class actions for compensation by former mining employees

> It is substantially cheaper and more effective for mining companies to embark on an industry-wide BQI as opposed to individual companies undertaking reactive developments in engineering and PPE.


Practical path towards a mining industry-wide Buy Quiet initiative

To effectively setup an industry-wide BQI, the mining industry must meet the following strategic objectives:

a. Identify and rank noise sources throughout the industry. Mining companies have done remarkably well in this regard and this information is readily available. However, it needs to be collated and normalized

b. Establish 'stretched' noise emission targets per machine or type of equipment based on the noise source and noise level

c. Determine the approximate aggregate demand for specific machinery/equipment that mining companies use currently and will use over the next 10 years, as well as the demand for specific spares equipment

d. Engage with a wide spectrum of suppliers at executive level to communicate and obtain commitment milestones for the first two points above.

There might be a need to classify equipment that is specific to South Africa so that noise hazard for global equipment can be addressed by global initiatives such as Earth Moving Equipment Safety Round Table (EMERST) and the coordination of noise-related research and development.

Key steps towards the achievement of these strategic objectives are:

i. Establish a mining industry Buy Quiet task team with sub-teams as required, with the sole mandate of executing the above objectives. The team establishment to be facilitated by the MOSH Learning Hub

ii. Set up round-table discussions at the executive level with the supplier groups to facilitate the BQI at the highest level

iii. Establish specific standards based on equipment/machinery life-cycle cost as opposed to purchase cost. Develop standards for noise emission levels at the start-of-use (new equipment), mid-life use, and end-of-life use. Requirements must also include maintenance requirements for maintaining low noise emission during the operating life of equipment

iv. Establish realistic and equipment-specific noise reduction targets and milestones with the task teams and suppliers

v. Monitor and manage progress towards the milestones.

It is important that an industry-wide BQI is developed with the active participation of mining industry executives. This on its own will constitute a step change, because noise hazard is currently the responsibility of occupational health departments, and there is no effective involvement of executives nor the integration of engineering and procurement departments.


Challenges in executing a mining industry-wide Buy Quiet initiative

As mentioned, initiatives to date have had limited success and it is important to learn from the potential pitfalls that have been identified:

> Inability of the industry to collaborate on this initiative

> A fixation on purchase cost as opposed to life-cycle cost

> Inability of mining companies to sell this strategy to their individual operations

> Supplier resistance based on international product specifications and requirements

> Suppliers resistance due mainly to upfront investment that might be required in some research and development initiatives and the targets set by task teams

> Potential reduction of competition and monopoly issues

> Potential intellectual property issues.

The above challenges require specific mitigation and action, but they are surmountable.


Industry consultations

The establishment of a BQI for the mining industry is an ambitious goal and requires wide consultation.

After extensive consultation with the MOSH Task Force, MPAS, and key executives the initiative was presented to the CM&EEs, since they are seen as the potential custodians of the initiative. The CM&EEs agreed to the initiative in principle and requested that a work session be organized to define the details.

The MOSH Noise Team facilitated the majority of the consultative workshops and used obstacle-based planning techniques and systems approach principles for scoping the challenges. Briefly, the process applies the following logic:

a) Soliciting obstacles (from the delegates) that will cause the failure of BQI. This step was inclusive and all obstacles were considered and extensively discussed

b) Deriving intermediate objectives to mitigate and eliminate the obstacles identified

c) Verbalizing the obstacles and intermediate objectives

d) Classification and correlation of the obstacles

e) Deriving an intermediate objectives map.

The obstacles, together with the accompanying intermediate objectives, are shown in Table I. The obstacles were classified into the following five categories:

a) Leadership commitment - issues relating to commitment by the mining industry leadership to adhere to and implement the BQI

b) Scoping issues - issues relating to the scoping, planning, scheduling, and execution of the BQI with the main aim of maintaining a focused approach to the initiative. They also included issues around the creation of verifiable but generic standards; the creation of standardized equipment noise databases; accompanying change management processes; explicit terms of reference; and measurable outputs. Precursors such as the formation and composition of the task teams were also grouped under the scoping issues. The scoping of this initiative should seriously consider and include an industry-wide Buy and Maintain Quiet initiative, as opposed to the BQI only

c) Stakeholder management - how and when to involve all relevant stakeholders such as OEMs, labour unions, other engineering stakeholders, and State departments

d) Economic viability issues - related to the balance between economic realities, technological limitations, and management of the noise hazard, and included the feasibility of some endeavours

e) Others - mostly operational concerns that can be overcome by implementing effective HCPs, COPs, and operational discipline procedures. Most of these concerns are generally not part of the BQI scope.

In summary, the obstacles showed that:

a) About half of the identified obstacles to implementing the BQI are related to scoping issues

b) The most urgent and pertinent issue regarding scoping is the nomination and creation of properly constituted task teams. The governance structure and terms of reference of the teams must be clarified up-front, although the teams should establish their own execution strategies and plans. Once the task teams have been formed, they should expedite the following:

- Explicit project scoping to avoid scope creep

- Serious consideration of, and include in the scoping, an industry-wide Buy and Maintain Quiet initiative as opposed to BQI only

- Identification and prioritizing of noise sources throughout the mining industry

- Creation of a noisy machinery/equipment database

- Creation of an equipment supplier/OEM database

- Setting of long-term noise reduction/tolerance targets

c) The scoping should be explicit on the change management that is required for this initiative and should use the MOSH methodology

d) There was general consensus on the need for mining leaders to provide effective leadership by signing off, committing, and adhering to the BQI

e) The mining industry must involve all relevant stakeholders (e.g. OEMs, labour unions, State, and research institutions). These stakeholders should have representatives on the task teams. However, the mining industry has to be very tactful in the stipulation of the parameters for stakeholder involvement. The task teams are expected to provide leadership in this regard

f) Task teams should take into consideration economic viability issues during target setting. Some of the activities that are critical in achieving this include:

i. Value case per equipment

ii. Identify, prioritize, and rank noise sources throughout the mining industry

iii. Creation of a noisy machinery database

iv. Setting of long-term noise reduction /tolerance targets.


Conclusion and recommendations

Extensive consultations have indicated that the mining industry believes that the industry-wide Buy Quiet initiative is a proactive endeavour that will greatly assist in combating noise-induced hearing loss and the management of noise at the 'real' source. Although the Buy Quiet policies of individual mining companies do help in this regard, it is only through the collective focus and commitment of the mining industry, backed up by aggregate equipment spend, that suppliers will be motivated to focus on noise reduction as a key issue in product development and performance.

To institute the industry-wide Buy Quiet initiative, the mining industry has to effectively address the identified obstacles. The most critical and urgent issue is the formation of a properly constituted industry-wide task team, which must include representatives from key industry stakeholders. However, great tact should be exercised in stipulating the parameters of general stakeholder involvement. Properly constituted, this initiative has the potential to be the pathfinder and a benchmark for other challenges that require extensive cooperation within the mining industry.



The authors thank the following organizations for their advice and cooperation:

> The Chamber of Mines of South Africa and the MOSH Learning Hub structures

> Consulting mechanical and electrical engineers

> Group environmental engineers

> All other individuals and organizations that were involved in this consultative exercise

> The Theory of Constraint (TOC) body of knowledge.

Glossary of terms

ALARP As low as reasonably practicable

AMRE Association of Mine Resident Engineers - Association responsible for originating and promoting the general advancement of all matters appertaining to the work of engineers in the mining industry

BOI Buy Quiet initiative

CEO Chief Executive Officer

CoM Chamber of Mines of South Africa

COP Code of Practice

CM& EEs Consulting Mechanical and Electrical Engineers - Technical Committee within the CoM

GEEs Group Environmental Engineers - Technical Committee within the CoM

HCP Hearing conservation programme

HPD Hearing protection device

HPD TAS Hearing protection device, training awareness and selection

Leadership Applies to leadership in different levels and roles

MOSH Mining Occupational Safety and Health leading practice adoption system

MOSH Noise Team A MOSH Team - responsible for facilitating the adoption of noise prevention leading practices

MPAs Mining professional associations

OH Occupational health

OEMs Original equipment manufacturers (in this report, is used interchangeable with suppliers and service providers)

NIHL Noise-induced hearing loss

R&D Research and development

SAIMM Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

SAIMechE South African Institute of Mechanical Engineering

SMEs Small and medium enterprises

State South African Government.



© The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, 2014. ISSN2225-6253. Paper received Oct. 2013; revised paper received Apr. 2014.

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