Despite an horrific year for industry fatalities, a new report from Queensland showed a decrease in Lost Time Injuries (LTIs).
The Queensland Mines and Quarries Safety Performance and Health report 2013-2014 marked a decrease from 1026 LTIs in 2012-13 to 831 in 2013-14, a reduction of 195 injuries (19 per cent).
This represented a fall in the LTI frequency rate from 3.5 to 3.0 injuries per million hours.
However, within the underground coal and quarrying sectors the LTI frequency rate grew from 5.9 to 6.5 and 5.0 to 6.4 respectively.
Sadly the Queensland mining industry broke a very good drought and suffered the first fatalities in seven years according to the report, with two deaths in FY14.
However, in March 2013 another man died in a Mount Isa copper smelter, which has not been counted as a mining death in the report.
There was also an increase in permanent incapacities from 32 to 38 for the year.
Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines deputy director for Mine Safety and Health, Paul Harrison, said the year had been a distressingly bad period with a total of 16 mining industry deaths across the nation.
“This is the worst result experienced for a number of years and has raised significant concern amongst regulators and mine operators alike,” he said.
Harrison said that improved training, competency and support of line supervisors were identified as key areas requiring attention.
“This was one of the chief proposals put forward in the consultation regulatory impact statement for the Mine Safety Amendment Bill released by the Mines Inspectorate for public consultation in September 2013,” he said.
“Poor knowledge and competency are the precursors to disasters and fatal accidents.”
Harrison also recognised the disproportionate number of contractors involved in fatal accidents, with seven of the 16 deaths nationwide in the past year, and two thirds of fatalities in Queensland mines over the past 13 years being contractors.
However Harrison said the reduction in injuries overall was heartening news.
“Nonetheless, there remains opportunity for further progress.”
The reporting of High Potential Incidents (HPIs) was also recognised in the report as an important tool for the industry to implement strategies to manage identified risks before someone is injured, as well as assisting the Mines Inspectorate in setting priorities for improvements to safety.
HPIs have seen a marginal increase over the year: In 2013-14 there were 50 HPIs per 1000 coal miners compared with 47 the year before; 32 per 1000 workers at metalliferous mines (29 in 2012-13) and 41 per 1000 employees at quarries (43).
Overall, there were 45 high potential incidents per 1000 workers, compared with 42 a year earlier.