Fundamental responsibilities of mine action management include the need to reduce risk and to provide a safe working environment for men and women deminers and mine action staff. IMAS 10.10 provides guidance for the development and implementation of Safety and Occupational Health systems for use in mine action. Risk reduction involves a combination of safe working practices and operating procedures, effective supervision and control, appropriate education and training, equipment of inherently safe design, and the provision of effective Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and clothing.
PPE should be regarded as a 'last resort' to protect against the effects of mine and ERW hazards. It should be the final protective measure after all planning, training and procedural efforts to reduce risk have been taken. There are a number of reasons for this approach. First, PPE protects only the person wearing it, whereas measures controlling the risk at source can protect everyone at the demining workplace. Second, theoretical maximum levels of protection are seldom achieved with PPE in practice, and the actual level of protection provided is difficult to assess. To obtain the maximum protection from any PPE it must be correctly fitted and properly maintained and used. And third, PPE may restrict the wearer to some extent by limiting mobility, visibility and comfort, or by requiring additional weight to be carried. The requirements for protection must be balanced against the possibility that wearing too much PPE may impair movement or concentration.
While the risk to deminers comes from all types of explosive ordnance including Anti Personnel (AP) blast mines, AP fragmentation mines, Anti Tank (AT) mines and ERW, including unexploded sub-munitions, the AP blast mine occurs in the greatest numbers and features in the most accidents. PPE, therefore, is principally designed to defeat the injuries caused by AP blast mines. At close quarters, AP fragmentation mines and AT mines overmatch PPE currently available, however, due to the area effect of such mines, they also have the potential to cause 'secondary victims' and PPE is intended to provide some protection to these.
In general, when unexploded munitions are encountered in humanitarian demining, they have already malfunctioned, they are usually high in metal content, on or near the surface, and constitute less of a hazard than mines. The varied nature of UXO, however, means that the hazard is best dealt with procedurally rather than by relying on PPE designed primarily for humanitarian demining.
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