Contractor mine deaths prompt safety alert

Queensland's Mines Safety Commissioner has issued an alert about the number of contractors killed on Australian mine sites in the last six months and called on the industry to look after its workers.

In the past six months seven people have been killed on mine sites around the country. Five of these mine workers were contractors.

Queensland commissioner Stewart Bell said while Queensland is not represented in the latest figures, contractors are generally overrepresented in fatal mining accidents.

Bell issued a safety alert to the QLD industry stating the “tragic loss of life in the mining industry is unacceptable and immediate steps must be taken to stop it”.

He said mine operators, site senior executives and managers must understand that effective management of contractors is part of their key obligations.

“Queensland mining safety and health legislation does not distinguish between mining company employee and contractor employees,” Bell said.

Queensland’s mining act requires that a single site specific safety and health management system (SHMS) is used for employees and contractors to ensure that risks are controlled.

Bell said site senior executives in particular must ensure the effective implementation of one SHMS that provides direct control over all facets of the operation.

“Ensuring contractors are being managed under a single SHMS is a key focus this year for the Queensland Mine Inspectorate,” Bell said.

“I cannot emphasise enough that the safety of all mine worker, regardless of whether they are a contractor or mine employee, is primarily the responsibility of the mine operator and SSE.”

The commissioner has previously stated he was concerned some sites were of the view that the safety of contractors was not management’s problem.

“I’m concerned that some mining operations regard these risks as not their responsibility, whereas in my view they should review and approve the contractor’s processes and procedures before the work begins, and integrate them into the site’s safety and health management system,” he said.

Bell said the “disturbing” increase in mining deaths needs to stop.

On the 15th of August 2013, contract electrician Kurt Williams died at Fortescue’s Christmas Creek mine in Western Australia while another contractor, Allen Zuvela, was killed at the same mine site on December 29.

A contractor at Telfer mine was killed on December 6 after being crushed by polypipe at the gold mine’s tailings dam.

In NSW, contractor Ingrid Forshaw died at Glencore’s Ravensworth mine when the light vehicle she was driving collided with a dump truck on November 30 2013.

Mount Lyell mine in Tasmania recorded its third death on January 17 2014 when a contractor was killed by a mudslide.

Bell said 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 fir for purpose.

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