Tjerk Raske
Director General
View from the Top

Integrated Approach to Minimizing Risk

Mon, 10/21/2013 - 17:47

Q: How do Dräger’s products improve the safety of workers at Mexican mines?

A: The products in our portfolio begin by addressing preventative measures in occupational health and safety, such as the detection of alcohol and drug use, in order to avoid operating risks. These are then linked to occupational health and safety threats, such as hazardous gas and lack of oxygen, depending on the type of mine. For individual gas monitoring we offer special software and portable gas detectors through which each employee can keep a record of the level of toxic gases they are being exposed to, and we offer respiratory protection and filtering solutions with the aim of preventing long term negative effects on the health of the workers. We also have gas analyzers that detect the combustion gases of heavy equipment, such as diesel engines.

In terms of mine rescue, we provide self-rescuers, which are respirators for use in emergency situations that give the individual between 25 and 60 minutes to escape to safety, as well as gas detectors and closed-circuit respiratory protection systems that work for four hours. The full-face masks for breathing allow communication and give miners a wider range of vision, allowing them to act in emergency situations. Dräger also provides emergency ventilation and resuscitation systems for reanimation which, combined with the hospital equipment that we offer, provide our clients with a complete solution for emergency and rescue situations. We create integrated solutions for the customers by developing hermetic refuge and rescue chambers with the same mechanism for recirculating air for 24 to 96 hours, depending on the design. The breathing apparatus can be complemented with quick-fill stations throughout the rescue trail of the mine, creating an integrated concept for emergency and escape situations. Our quick-fill systems are National Fire Protection Association approved, and are suitable for firefighting underground.

Q: How have Dräger’s products responded to the specific conditions present on mine sites as well as the regulatory framework that applies to mining projects?

A: The Labor Law states that every underground mine must have shelter in case of any emergency, and when this requirement was introduced it triggered greater demand for rescue chambers. There is a great opportunity for Dräger to expand in this part of the market in the coming years, given that our company integrates many different solutions such as gas monitoring and oxygen recycling machines, among other things, which result in more efficient mining shelters. Today the BG4 is our best known product for mine rescue teams. In addition to that our portable gas detector solutions, including the X-Dock and the X-Zone, offer very important advantages, allowing for interconnection and a database to store information.

There have been significant advances in the past couple of years because of the passing of reforms related to labor security legislation and the application of new norms. There are still informal mining projects on which safety is not a priority, but the Mexican mining sector becomes more professional each year, and investment in safety solutions grows as a result. Downtime in a mine can cost a lot of money, but in the case of a fire the financial loss could almost amount to the whole investment, hence the importance of security measures and equipment.

Q: What new technologies and solutions resulting from Dräger’s R&D processes are you planning to introduce to the Mexican market?

A: Dräger works closely with its customers to develop new solutions. We offer integral solutions, including quick-fill stations and refillable breathing apparatus, and we also recently launched a portable area monitor, the X-Zone, which is mainly used in coal mining operations, given that this is where the risk of fire and toxic gases being released is higher. The equipment consists of a range of fixed and portable gas detectors that are easy to use and allows the sending of alarms between different portable gas detectors. Another significant feature will be the documentation of all safety-related topics for workers, so that a company can improve its employee protection measures. We address this need through the X-Dock, which serves to complement our portable gas detection products.

Q: What opportunities are there in Mexico for safety companies such as Dräger to draw on their international presence and experience?

A: Dräger has a presence in Canada and the US, and Canadian companies in particular are aware of the experts we have working for us in countries such as Mexico. One of the most important things is gaining the trust of mining companies and miners in general, given that our technology is used to protect miners’ lives. It is certainly easier for companies in Canada or the US that have used Dräger equipment for over 25 years, given that they already recognize the quality of our brand. The 100 year old tradition of using Dräger in the US mining sector has led to mine rescue workers being called “Drägermen”; this helped to position our brand in the market.

Q: What is the main factor that explains the difference in the approach to safety between Mexico and countries like Canada and the US: regulation or education and awareness?

A: Integrated solutions are more common in Australia and Canada where safety awareness and regulations are more advanced, but Mexico has also started to raise awareness about the importance of maintaining safety in mines. Each company takes a different approach to safety performance, depending on the country it is working in. We face a big challenge in convincing people of the value of safety equipment and this is something that the companies providing this equipment have to get better at; we must explain the value proposition in a more effective way. We provide training and education through the Dräger Academy; in the case of mine rescue teams this involves how to use the equipment while under physical stress. Safety equipment providers will surely be pushing for improvements in safety performance. There is, however, also great initiative coming from the mining industry and from Camimex, which has a commission focusing on safety that organizes regular meetings on the topic. There are also international experts coming into Mexico with safety initiatives, for example the German Chamber of Commerce has been involved in sending experts to Colombia to train people. If there is no regulation on the part of the government, safety performance inspections will not be carried out and optimal conditions will not be reached. Some companies that avoid accidents in mines are being recognized as socially responsible and rewarded with tax exemptions; we need to promote these types of initiatives with the government in order to inspire mining companies to improve their performance in this area.

Q: Would you join forces with your competitors to push for the broader application of safety solutions in the mining industry?

A: Nowadays, when we promote certification programs we communicate with other companies to perform the same kinds of tests to verify the quality of the products in the market. This is not only driven by regulations and compliance with governmental requirements, it also has to do with international regulations, where Mexico is orienting itself towards following North American regulations especially. Certificates are given when companies reach international safety standards, show continuous improvement, and ensure that safety rules are being followed by all of the individuals working in the mine. The challenge is for individuals to go into the mine every day using safety equipment without experiencing any incidents.