QLD suffers most dangerous year in a decade

Queensland's mining industry had one of its most unsafe years in more than a decade.

Queensland's mining industry had one of its most unsafe years in more than a decade.

According to the Queensland Mines and Quarries Safety Performance and Health Report, while fatalities were down from three to one, the number of lost time injuries and injury frequency rate, as well as the number of high potential incidents reported actually increased year on year.

Stewart Bell, the QLD commissioner for mine safety and health, explained that "the Queensland mining industry continues to maintain its prime position as one of the safest in the world; however out safety outcomes in some areas have deteriorated and this is cause for concern".

This year saw a spike in lost time injuries from 311 in the 2010-2011 period to 452 this year.

The LTIFR also jumped from 3.4 to 3.9, while the number of actual potential incidents reported increased 20% from 1979 to 2390 year on year.

Part of this was due to the substantial increase in personnel and work hours on site.

"Employment increased from 46,936 employees in 2010-11 to 57,313 employees in 2011-12. As a consequence, the hours worked in 2011-12 increased substantially from 92.5 million hours in 2010-11 to 116.8 million hours in 2011-12," the report said.

Days lost to disabling injuries from 11 677 to 12 214 days while medical treatment injuries leapt by 33% from 853 to 1140.

Bell added that "we have seen a disturbing rise in dangerous behaviour in underground coal mines".

The report highlighted incidents such as a dragline house all but demolishing the rear of a service truck with two people in the cab; an electrician found working on live equipment in a gassy development panel; a contract mining smoking in one of the state's gassiest underground coal mines; and people tampering with methane detectors on mining equipment.

"Such behaviour problems might be linked to the influx of newcomers to the industry who do not fully appreciate the dangers of underground coal mining. The training and industry familiarisation of these people is critically important and we must be certain that they are ready for the job before they commence work underground," he said.

Gavin Taylor and Rob O'Sullivan, the chief inspector for coal mines and metalliferous and quarries respectively, said "the year in review, in many respects, has been one of the worst for accidents and port safety outcomes since the inception of new legislation in 2001".

Bell added that "the fact is that we are placing inherently unreliable human beings in charge of highly complicated equipment and they are demonstrating their unreliability in a plethora of accidents".

Taylor and O'Sullivan went on to say that one of the factors that has played a part in this decrease in safety "is poor training and mentoring; for some time now we have been railing against the poor standard of training and assessment available. All too often we hear of registered training organisation significantly reducing training schedules, not training on mine sites in realistic conditions, and shortcutting assessments".

However it was not all bad news.

Days lost to LTIs fell 21% from 16 872 to 13 235 days, while the lost time injury severity rate dropped nearly 40% from 182 to 113 days.

Permanent incapacities were also down from 57 to 28 injuries or illnesses year on year.

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