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Commissioner ‘heartened’ by industry’s response to safety reset

The Queensland resources sector must ride the momentum from the recent “safety reset”, says the state’s Commissioner for Mine Health and Safety who has praised operators planning to implement the concept on a national and permanent basis.

On Friday, 15 November, Commissioner Kate du Preez was the guest speaker at the Institute of Quarrying Australia Queensland branch’s annual lunch meeting.

Her discussion focused on learnings from mandatory workplace safety sessions held across Queensland in response to a spate of mining and quarrying deaths.

In an interview with Quarry prior to the event, du Preez said the “safety reset” program had been a crucial first step in refocusing the industry’s attention on what should be the number one priority – the health and safety of its workers.

Du Preez said more than 52,000 mine and quarry workers in Queensland stopped work to attend one of the 1197 safety and health-focused sessions, which operators had to complete within a six-week window by 31 August.

“It has been a tragic year for Queensland’s mining and quarrying industry,” du Preez said. “We experienced five fatalities in 2018–19, with a sixth in early July 2019.

“The safety reset was an opportunity for industry to take stock of its safety and health culture and to get back to basics on safety practices.

“I would like to see the industry, unions and the regulator working together to ensure the momentum of the ‘safety reset’ is not lost and improvements to safety culture across the industry are embedded into everyday practice.”

High levels of buy-in

Due to ongoing investigations, du Preez said she could not comment on emerging trends from the fatal incidents. However, her initial impression is the safety reset process has been successful.

“Integral to this success has been the level of buy-in from all levels of the industry – from boardroom to shop floor,” she said.

“This has illustrated to me that most people understand the importance of their safety and health obligations and understand that Queensland’s modern safety and health legislation was written in the shadow of disaster.

“The safety reset sessions I attended were punctuated by a number of personal stories from mine workers and I was heartened to hear that a number of operators were planning to implement the safety reset concept on a national scale and make it part of their ongoing programs to protect worker safety and health.”

Du Preez said many incidents in mines and quarries were the result of ineffective implementation of controls to manage known risks.

Prior to the safety reset, in March this year, the Queensland Mines Inspectorate implemented a major inspection and education campaign, which targeted three key areas for action to improve the controls that manage identified risks.

Du Preez said the Campaign for Change aims to ensure industry has a clear understanding that it is unacceptable to:

  • Operate plant without effective guarding in place.
  • Use mobile equipment that is not maintained and inspected in accordance with original equipment manufacturer requirements.
  • Allow workers to operate mobile equipment without being appropriately trained and competent.
  • Conduct work on plant that is not correctly isolated and locked out.

The campaign will continue into 2020.

“Everyone who goes to work, whether that is in a mine, a quarry or any other workplace, is entitled to return home safely to their families and friends,” du Preez said.

“No death or injury on a mine or quarry site is acceptable and every workplace should be doing everything possible to protect the safety and health of its workers.”

 

Kate du Preez, Queensland Commissioner for Mine Health & Safety,  health and safety, OHS, health, safety, quarrying, Campaign for Change, mining, safety reset, Institute of Quarrying Australia Queensland, Institute of Quarrying Australia, IQA

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