March 29, 2017

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Choose the correct PDS systems to avoid breaking the law – expert warning

PDS suppliers have the responsibility to deliver a reliable solution to their mining customers and this includes conducting ongoing product improvement

While many mines consider proximity detection systems (PDS) a ‘grudge purchase’ to comply with the revised Mine Health and Safety Act (MHSA), there is still considerable legal onus on both users and suppliers to ensure that all equipment is fit-for-purpose.

 Anton Lourens, managing director of leading PDS supplier Booyco Electronics, emphasises the importance of mines being very careful in their selection of equipment – to avoid falling foul of the law.

 “We’ve seen a strong drive by the Department of Mineral Resources to enforce compliance with the new legislation,” Lourens says. “Some mining companies will opt for the cheapest equipment just so they can tick that box in the requirements, but this does create a risk further down the line – if an accident occurs and equipment is found to be not up to the task.”

 He also highlights the responsibility of PDS suppliers to deliver a reliable solution to their mining customers, and pointed out that there are still suppliers in the market who do not fully understand their legal liabilities when selling PDS technology to mines.

 “In terms of Section 21 of the MHSA, the equipment supplied by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) must be fit-for-purpose,” he says. “If it is found that equipment does not comply, then the OEM can face both civil and criminal prosecution; as the PDS supplier to the OEM, we also bear responsibility.”

 Lourens says the role of a competent supplier is to help educate customers about the importance of the drive towards zero-harm, which requires a commitment and passion rather than a tick-box approach.

 “My view is that our biggest challenge when dealing with the mining sector is customer education – getting the end-users to understand what is a fit-for-purpose technology, and what the limitations are with each of the technologies,” he says.

 He adds that the vital research and development required to advance the capability of PDS offerings had to be funded by the suppliers, not the mines. This placed a financial burden on all companies active in this space, but that was unavoidable in the light of legislation and suppliers must take on this responsibility with care and commitment.

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