New light on inadequate incident reporting

Safety controls in the mining industry will receive new scrutiny in a crackdown on risk reporting after deficiencies were found in relation to a series of workplace deaths.

The Australian said a report based on investigation conducted by consultants Noetic Solutions will be released today which shows that in a spate of five fatal accidents in NSW, three were the result of known risks in the mining industry, and only one was regarded as an extremely rare event.

The four accidents examined in the MSAC Fatality Review 2013-14 were a fatal haul truck/LV collision at Ravensworth Open Cut Mine (30/11/13), a double fatality at Austar Coal Mine as a result of a rib burst (15/4/14), the death of a rigger who was crushed while operating an EWP at the Boggabri expansion project (21/5/14), and a worker at Glencore’s CSA Mine who was trapped beneath water while attempting to clear a borehole (11/6/14).

The marked increase in the number of mining deaths around the nation in 2014 brought criticism from the unions about worker inexperience and cost cutting measures leading to accidents, however the mining industry steadfastly maintains their commitment to safety as a priority.

Last year NSW Resources Minister Anthony Roberts wrote to the Mine Safety Advisory Council (MSAC) in support of the investigation, asking for “a deeper, holistic examination of current circumstances to ensure, as the regulator, we identify and respond to any systematic and underlying issues”.

Today the minister explained that he called for an investigation out of concern there had been five fatalities in NSW over eight months.

“Each incident is thoroughly investigated by the Division of Resources and Energy (DRE), however I wanted to ensure that, as the regulator, we were quickly identifying and responding to any systematic and underlying issues that could contribute to a serious incident,” he said.

“The report found no common link between the incidents, with each involving widely varying activities from mining, construction, surface transport and ancillary underground activities.”

However, the Noetic report states that while there was no immediate or common link between the incidents, there were possible common themes, including that three of the incidents were described as involving a “known risk”, as well as the fact that activities involved in the same three incidents were consider routine in the mining industry.

Roberts said he endorsed the report’s recommendations, which included the need for improved data collection of all accidents and incidents in mines to allow an analysis of trends and patterns of safety related issues.

Other recommendations include identification of reasons (in terms of human and organisational factors) which make it more likely risk controls will be successfully and reliably implemented, and consideration of whether the regulator should explicitly focus on critical controls for significant risks as part of an incident prevention strategy.

“DRE has already acted and instituted a new database and systems to identify trends which will help put in place preventative measures,” Roberts said.

“The protection of workers is paramount.”

“That is why DRE is constantly working to ensure NSW has the world’s highest safety standards to minimise risks in the mining industry.”

In the first half 2014 there was one fatal resource industry accident every 15 days, and in NSW there were five deaths in an eight month period.

The uptrend in mining deaths seems to have continued in 2015, with eight deaths around Australia within five months, compared to 10 deaths nationwide in 2013.

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