Chamber of Minerals and Energy calls for increased focus on worker fatigue

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy has highlighted the need to address worker fatigue in the mining industry, particularly for those working longer days.

The comments come after the release of the Fatal Accidents in the Western Australian Mining Industry 2000-2012 report, in which the Department of Mines and Petroleum raised fatigue and length of time working on a particular site as major contributing factors in workplace fatalities.

The report recommended more regular breaks for workers on 12-hour shifts.

Chamber of Minerals and Energy manager of workplace safety Adrienne Labombard, in an interview with the ABC, said among challenges to the industry is a relatively new workforce, highlighting the need for training, inductions and quality on-site supervision, as well addressing worker fatigue.

“That’s an ongoing task and it’s important for the industry to stay vigilant in that regard,” she said.

 “I think one of the key things for us are the risks regarding fatigue and it being really important for companies to continue to put strategies in place to mitigate that risk.”

Labombard also suggested that “a number of really important observations have been pulled out of that report”.

Rio Tinto CEO Sam Walsh, in his address to shareholders at the AGM in Melbourne today, acknowledged that it was his responsilbility to be the starting point for further safety initiatives, after the deaths of three Rio Tinto employees outside of Australia in 2013.

"Quite simply, we should not have fatalities in our business in the twenty-first century," he said.

"In the year ahead I have tasked our team with making sure safety is at the heart of all we do, and I recognise this starts with me.

The most recent tragedy in Australian mining occured on Tuesday, when an electrician was discovered at the Anglo American-run Grasstree coal mine, who had collapsed from asphyxiation after entering a closed-off area of the mine.

This latest workplace fatality brings the national mining death toll to six in 2014.

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