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DrillSafe Articles

Safety information and collaboration forum for the exploration drilling industry in Southern Africa.


Drill Safe


When the Mine Health and Safety Act (MHSA) is silent on any particular issue, we must look to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) to see if it has any applicable regulations. Hazardous chemicals is a good example of one of these situations.


The only regulation applicable to drilling fluids in the MHSA is Section 21, which addresses the duties of manufacturers, suppliers and importers. Future articles will take a detailed look at the implications of Section 21 for manufacturers of drill rigs and drilling equipment – for now, the focus is on the sub-sections that apply to chemicals used in a drilling or mining operation.

I am pretty sure that the legislators who drafted the Mine Health and Safety Act did not consider drilling fluid additives when they wrote the legislation, however,  I believe that it is very clear that Section 21 is still applicable to drilling fluid manufacturers and suppliers and so I have included it in this discussion.

Subsection 4 deals specifically with “hazardous substances” and while the vast majority of drilling fluid additives do not fall within the definition of a "hazardous substance" we should still make sure that we comply with the requirements.

Section 21 Manufacturer’s and supplier’s duty for health and safety                                                                                                                         
(4) Every person who manufactures, imports or supplies any hazardous substance for use at a mine must -
        (a)   ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that the substance is safe and without risk to health and safety when used, handled,  
                processed, stored or transported at a mine in accordance with the information provided in terms of paragraph (b);
        (b)   provide adequate information about
                (i)    the use of the substance;
                (ii)   the risks to health and safety associated with the substance;
                (iii)  any restriction or control on the use, transport and storage of the substance, including but not limited to exposure
               (iv)  the safety precautions to ensure that the substance is without risk to health or safety;
               (v)   the procedure to be followed in the case of an accident involving excessive exposure to the substance, or any other
                       emergency involving the substance; and
                (vi)  the disposal of used containers which the substance has been stored and any waste involving the substance; and
        (c)   ensure that the information provided in terms of paragraph (b) complies with the provisions of the Hazardous Substances
               Act, 1973 (Act No. 15 of 1973).

I believe that we have covered all of theses requirements in the recommendations contained in previous articles in this series, however, we can summarise the manufacturers and suppliers duties as follows:

  1. The manufacturer or supplier provide a detailed MSDS with every product supplied.
  2. The manufacturer or supplier must provide clear instruction on the use of the product.
  3. The manufacturer or supplier must provide clear information on the risks to health and safety when using the product.

One important issue that we haven't dealt with is what information must be included in an MSDS. To answer this question we have to look at the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Annexure 8 of the Hazardous Chemical Substances Regulations lays out what information must be included in a valid MSDS. In a later article in this series we will examine these regulations but in the mean time it may be worthwhile having a loo at these regulations yourself. If you would like a copy of the regulations, then contact us and we will be happy to mail them to you.

Read the other articles about drilling fluids hazards, biodegradability and drilling fluids safety.