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Fundamental responsibilities of mine action management include the need to reduce risk and to provide a safe working environment for 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;
tools and equipment of inherently safe design;
the provision of effective personal protective equipment (PPE) and clothing.
PPE need to be regarded as a last resort to protect against the hazards associated with mine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) clearance. It is the final protective measure after all planning, training and procedural efforts have been taken to reduce risk. There are 3 main reasons for this approach.
1) PPE protects only the person wearing it, whereas measures controlling the risk at source can protect everyone at the demining worksite.
2) The theoretical maximum levels of protection are rarely achieved with PPE, 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.
3) The PPE may restrict the wearer to some extent by limiting mobility, visibility and comfort. The requirements for protection needs to balanced against the possibility that wearing too much PPE may impair movement and concentration.
The risk to deminers comes from all types of explosive ordnance (EO), including:
anti-personnel (AP) blast mines;
AP fragmentation mines;
anti-vehicle (AV) mines;
ERW, including unexploded sub-munitions;
improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Statistical data shows that AP blast mines appear in the greatest numbers and feature in most accidents. Therefore, PPE is principally designed to prevent the injuries caused by AP blast mines. At close quarters, AP fragmentation mines and AV mines will almost certainly overmatch the PPE currently available.
Although this standard provides distances at which the PPE is effective, this does not imply that the wearer will be safe at such distances. Distance reduces the severity of blast effects and secondary fragmentation, so the further away the wearer is, the safer the wearer is likely to be.
In the absence of any other internationally recognized standard, NATO’s STANAG 2920 is used to define the minimum level of protection for PPE. However, it does not specify the requirement to provide facial protection against the blast effects of 240 g of TNT at 60 cm. Thus, the minimum requirement for PPE is a combination of these two elements.
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