Load & Haul

Once in a century result for WA mines

Western Australia?s Department of Mines and Petroleum has quietly commemorated the results of health and safety statistics in the state?s mining industry which show that for the first time in over a century there were no fatalities in 2012.

WA Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore said the result was testament to industry-wide efforts and government reforms.

“The mining industry is a dangerous business, and while you aim for that [zero fatalities], I never thought we would achieve it and I am absolutely over the moon that we have,” Moore said. “But you can never ever in this industry rest on your laurels and ? you will only be able to keep it like that if everyone keeps their eyes on the ball and mines work on the basis that safety comes first.”

Mining safety records began just after the Coolgardie gold rush in the 1890s and peaked at 46 deaths shortly before World War I. Mine fatalities had stubbornly remained in single digits in recent years, despite the increased focus on safety.

The WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy director Nicole Roocke said it was a pleasing result but the sector would remain on guard. “The resource sector will remain vigilant and work hard to ensure everyone gets home safe and well,” she said.

Moore credited the introduction to WA mining in recent years of the oil and gas industry’s risk assessment model, adopted after the North Sea Piper Alpha disaster, as a major factor in the improvement.

In addition, a levy on the sector had allowed the state government to fend off poaching of its best safety inspectors by mining companies by boosting their pay. Regulation has also been strengthened with 13 safety inspectors employed in 2012, joining WA?s 63-member inspector team, which annually carries out around 2400 site visits.

The result comes as mining states Queensland and WA remain at loggerheads with the federal government over the adoption of national OHS laws on mines.

Moore said WA would continue to work with the Commonwealth but while uniformity was an admirable goal, the current proposals moved away from mine-based risk assessment policies which were working and would load the industry with a prescriptive “stack of regulations twice the size of the ones we already had”.

?[The result] is particularly pleasing when you consider there are now more people than ever before working in the WA resources industry – 98,000 workers,? Moore added.

Sources: WA Department of Mines and Petroleum, The Australian

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