The excavation industry is booming and this trend will continue due to the growing world population which is likely to be doubled from 6 billion in the year 2000 to 12 billion at its present growth rate by the year 2040, and also due to changes in the lifestyle, living standards and progressive outlook within countries, with each country aiming to grow from its current level of undeveloped to developing; from developing to a developed country and from developed to superpower.
IMM Australia predicts that “Over the next 50 years the world will use 5 times the mineral resources that have been mined to the year 2000. To meet this predicted demand, the industry must grow as internationally competitive sector, underpinned by innovations and technology.” The use of underground space in urban areas is becoming increasingly important due to scarcity of land in the densely populated/inhabited areas and due to environmental concerns. Methods, techniques and equipment are available to excavate a large volume of rocks beneath the surface efficiently.
This is the reason that thousands of kilometers of tunnels for transportation (rail, road and water conveyance) and large excavations, which are known as ‘caverns’, are being created for civil works, storage facilities, defense installations, hydro-electric power plants, and recreation facilities. This is generating billions of cubic meters of earth-material daily, besides that generated by mining activities the world over. Due to this scenario many multinational companies (manufacturers) are involved in producing explosives and their accessories; earth moving, rock drilling and cutting, and tunneling machines.
Thus, the excavation activities for civil and construction industries and to produce minerals from mines are vital. But the output from mines, tunnels and caverns is not restricted to rocks and ground, metallic and non-metallic ores and fuels but also includes gaseous emissions, liquid effluents, solid waste, radiation, particulatematters, heat and noise. Equally associated with excavations are hazards such as fires, explosions, inundation, and other accidents or disasters.
All these are detrimental to the health not only of direct and indirect stakeholders particularly when exceeding the permissible limits but also to the well-being of biotic and abiotic components of nature. Growing health-problems of the world’s citizens and global issues (problems) such as acid rain, ozone depletion, photochemical smog, acid drainage and global warming are testimony to this fact.
We understand ‘production at the desired rate’ is the bread and butter of those concerned (right from shop floor worker to the highest executive); productivity brings excellence to the production. However both cannot be achieved if safety is jeopardized, pollution is at its peak workers’ health is not looked after and societal welfare is neglected. Thus, Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) must be considered a critical business activity on a par with production and productivity. And a thorough balance is required between these three critical business activities together with proper care for society to achieve sustainable development, which is beneficial socially, economically and ecologically to the present as well as future generations.
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