Commissioner Safety Alert 5
2013-14 shaping up to be a dangerous year for mining contractors. It doesn’t have to be.
Eight people have died in Australian mining operations in the last seven months.
The Australian mining industry has recently seen a disturbing increase in mining deaths. We simply cannot afford to ignore the current number of fatalities at Australian mine sites so early into the 2013-14 reporting year. Five of these mine workers were contractors.
Each tragic report of a mine worker losing their life at work, signals a definite warning about mine safety management and its failure to effectively address hazards and manage risk. In just over the past six months the following fatalities have occurred at Australian mine sites:
- 15 August 2013, a contract electrician was killed at a crushing plant at an iron ore mine inWestern Australia.
- 30 November 2013, a contract operator in a light vehicle was crushed by a haul truck at anopencut coal mine in New South Wales.
- 4 December 2013, a contract operator was killed while working on a tailings discharge line at agold and copper mine in Western Australia.
- 9 December 2013, two maintenance workers were killed at a Tasmanian underground coppermine when the timber stage they were standing on collapsed and they fell 35m.
- 29 December 2013, a contract maintenance worker was killed, the second fatality for the yearat the same Western Australian iron ore mine.
- 17 January 2014, a Tasmanian copper mine recorded its third death when a contract loaderoperator died in a mudrush from a stope.
- 15 February 2014, a miner was killed in a rock fall at a West Australian gold mine
December 2013 was the worst month in the Australian mining industry for a long time with four fatalities. This continued tragic loss of life in the mining industry is unacceptable and immediate steps must be taken to stop it.
The majority of these mineworkers were contractors. Even though Queensland is not represented in these recent statistics, contractors are vastly over-represented in Queensland mining fatal accidents.
I want to reiterate my concern about the number of contractor fatalities at Queensland mine sites over the last 13 years.
Families should be confident that when a loved one goes to work in the mining industry they will come home safely, regardless of whether they are contractors or mining company employees.
Where to from here
While these recent fatalities are still under investigation, some cautionary comments can be provided based on the lessons of previous fatalities.
To avert further industry deaths, mine operators, mine management, supervisors and all mine workers and contractors alike, are reminded that they are working in an inherently hazardous industry that requires constant attention.
Mine operators, site senior executives (SSEs) and mine management must understand that the effective management of contractors and their employees is one of their key obligations. Queensland mining safety and health legislation does not distinguish between mining company and contractor employees.
In Queensland, our mining acts require that a single mine site specific safety and health management system (SHMS) is used for employees and contractors alike to ensure that risks are controlled and are at an acceptable level. Running multiple SHMSs in parallel–mine and contractors–is unlikely to achieve a safe outcome and is contrary to legislative requirements.
Mine management, in particular the SSE, is charged with managing safety on mine sites. This can only be achieved through the establishment and effective implementation of one SHMS that provides direct control over all facets of the operations.
Where contractors are used at mining operations the following must be considered and addressed in the site SHMS;
All contractor activities/personnel and equipment are identified.
An effective method for supervising contractors is established.
All contractor activities have procedures/standard work instructions or job safety analyses(JSAs) that form part of the site SHMS.
All contractor employees are confirmed as competent to undertake their intended tasks.
All contractor equipment is maintained appropriately and is fit for purpose.
I cannot emphasise enough that the safety of all mine workers, regardless of whether they are a contractor or mine employee, is primarily the responsibility of the mine operator and SSE. This can only be achieved by implementing an effective single SHMS that manages all the personnel, equipment and activities associated with the mining operation regardless of who is undertaking the activity, owns the equipment and pays the workers.
Ensuring contractors are being managed under a single SHMS is a key focus this year for the Queensland Mines Inspectorate.
Let’s make sure that in Queensland all our contractors and their mine worker colleagues get home safe and healthy to their families and that we don’t add anyone to this tragic list of fatalities.
Authorised by Stewart Bell | Commissioner for Mine Safety and Health
Further information contact: Andrew Clough | Chief Inspector of Coal Mines | +61 7 3199 8004 or
Phil Goode | Chief Inspector of Mines | +61 7 3199 8003
Place alert on noticeboards and ensure relevant people in your organisation receive a copy.
See more safety alerts and bulletins at http://mines.industry.qld.gov.au/
And the hazard database at http://mines.industry.qld.gov.au/safety-and-health/publications-guides.htm
© State of Queensland, Department of Natural Resources and Mines, 2014