Environmental News

Report shows mining fatalities mostly on surface

The Fatal accidents in the Western Australian mining industry 2000?2012 report, which was released by the WA Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) to help raise awareness and improve safety performance within the industry, examined 52 fatal mining accidents in WA between 2000 and 2012.
According to the report, there were 50 mining and two exploration fatal accidents over the 13-year period ? an average of four fatal accidents per year. Of the 52 fatal accidents, 17 were underground and 35 were on the surface ? a change from the 
1980s and 1990s when underground fatalities exceeded those on the surface. 
The number of surface workers increased over the review period from 36,000 to almost 90,000, with an average of three fatalities per year. However, it is important to note that in the same period, about ten times as many people were employed in surface mines as underground mines, meaning underground work showed a fatal incidence rate about five times greater than surface work. 
The report suggested that an increase in the number of fatalities from 2006 to 2009 could have been related to the rapid expansion of the iron ore sector in the Pilbara during the review period, while the decrease at the end of the period could have been attributed to the increased level of safety system and risk management developments by the industry. A more disciplined approach to compliance with standards could also have been a factor. 
The report also stated that the most recent fatal accidents in the review period were in surface mining in the iron ore sector, with one fatality underground. The report suggested this could be due to changes in ground support standards and geotechnical knowledge leading to improved safety performance for underground mining. 
Other possible reasons included improved mine planning and stope scheduling in underground mines, the use of remote loading techniques and raise-boring instead of rise-mining, and the fact that there were about ten times more workers in surface operations than underground. 
Need for robust safety
In 2013, the year following the review period, the report noted that there were a further three fatal accidents in surface operations ? two at iron ore mines and one at a gold mine.
According to the report, failure to identify workplace hazards was the most common reason for a fatality.
DMP Resources Safety Executive Director Simon Ridge said, ?The report revealed that almost half of the fatal accidents occurred when the deceased person had been working at a mine site for less than a year.
?It also revealed that the most common ?trigger actions? for a fatal accident were equipment not being restrained or isolated and the incorrect use of safety harness equipment.
?Fatigue was another contributing factor in the review, with the most common time of day for a fatal accident to occur being the last two hours of a typical day shift when a worker is more likely to lose concentration.?
Ridge said these findings reinforced the importance of a robust safety induction program, a positive safety culture and the effective implementation of fatigue management plans.
He also commented that while WA had come a long way in reducing mining fatalities, with 2012 being the first fatality-free year in over a century of recorded history, the ?ultimate goal moving forward? was to become a ?zero-harm? industry.
Source: Department of Mines and Petroleum Western Australia

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