What to consider when working underground

Working in an underground facility requires knowledge and awareness of the relevant laws, regulations and safety routines. The owner of a facility is responsible for ensuring that the facility meets the requirement. However, everyone who works there is also responsible for following routines and rules in order to provide a safe working environment for everyone.

Laws and regulations

Activities in underground laboratories are subject to strict laws and regulations. These laws and regulations are nation-wide (state or federal laws) and/or local (county). They all contain requirements under which the underground laboratories operate. This applies both to starting new activities or changing existing activities in an underground facility.

Since all these underground laboratories are located in countries with long mining traditions, the national regulations are well developed. Ownership requirements, including liability, are sufficiently clear. The description of local laws and regulations for the facilities in the network were investigated during the BSUIN project.

Access control

Access control is vital in the underground laboratories since it is important to know how many people are within the premises. If access control is facility-wide, then the current location of the persons will also be registered. Communication through two-way radios or over the Wi-Fi network (VOIP) is vital, as phone networks usually do not exist in underground locations.

The operator will inform you concerning the safety regulations before going underground. When working underground, the facility operator will provide safety equipment and give detailed instructions concerning the safety rules. More extensive safety education is required for long-term work underground.

Working underground

Most of the underground facilities, test sites and laboratories are governed by mining law even if the facilities are not mines, as they are considered as underground workings.

Underground facilities are subject to regular measurements, for example for radon. The measurement frequency depends on legislation of the hosting country. The required frequency might vary from annual to biannual, depending on the measured values. These measurements are the responsibility of the underground facility operator.

Rock mechanics, and especially the existence of coffins (loose rocks in the cavern walls or the ceiling) are a matter of great concern. Therefore, observations and removal should always be performed by professionals. This is the responsibility of the underground facility operator.

In case of emergency

In case of fire or any other type of accident, understanding safety practices and knowing the existence of escape routes and underground shelters is very important. If you cannot get out, you need to find the closest safe location of the indicated shelters. The facility operator is responsible to have safe routes and shelters, but all individual users are responsible to know and follow emergency practices.

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