Managing Safety On Mining Work Sites 
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Implementing a successful safety management plan in a high-risk work industry

The mining industry in Australia is crucial to a successful economy. Making up approximately 10.5% of the economy, it can be classed as one of the largest economic contributors to the Australian GDP. The industry employs close to 200,000 people throughout Australia. Due to the actions of the industry, its machinery, and processes, it is identified as a high-risk industry for workplace health and safety. Due to this classification, it’s no wonder that it is dedicated to improving WHS for its employees, contractors, and stakeholders.

The Work Health and Safety laws and regulations establish the minimum requirements for workplaces to ensure the safety of all workers, contractors, and stakeholders. There are applicable WHS laws and regulations for all industries, and they explicitly outline safety measure to prevent injury and accident. This is especially important in identified high-risk industries such as mining.

The Australian Federal Government does not regulate WHS in the mining industry, as it is regulated by individual states and territory governments. WHS requirements for the mining industry are regulated through the: 

The mining industry has made major advancements in health and safety over the last decade, with a reduction the incidence rates of both fatalities and serious injuries. However, the mining industry continues to have one of the highest rates of fatalities of any industry in the country due to its high-risk mentality. 

In the 12 years leading up to 2015, the fatality rate in the mining industry decreased by almost 65% from 12.4 worker fatalities per 100 000 workers in 2003, to 4.4 in 2015, a significant reduction for the industry to be proud of. The mining industry has the third highest fatality rate of any industry with an average of 9 workers dying each year. 

The reduction rate in serious injury and fatalities can be accounted towards advancements in technology, making them safer to operate and more remotely accessible as well as the regulated push for the industry to adopt successful risk and safety management plans.

Risk management

Risk management

The mine regulations in each state and territory require mine operators to develop safety management systems to manage risks.

The risk management process is framed around the key principles of:

  • identifying hazards that may present a risk to workers and others
  • assessing the consequences and likelihood of those risks
  • controlling those risks.

This code of practice provides practical guidance on how to undertake the principles of hazard identification, risk assessment and risk control as intended by the WHS regulations.

In managing risks at a mine, mine operators are required to particularly address fatigue management and the risks associated with the consumption of drugs and alcohol.

Principal mining hazards

The majority of the safety management systems for a mine address the principal mining hazard management plans. While the general risk management process provides a mechanism for addressing safety issues, there are some hazards on a mine site which present very serious risks to workers and others. These are referred to as principal mining hazards.

Mine operators must prepare and develop a plan to mitigate risks. Given the higher risk factor associated with these hazards, a higher level of planning and control is required. These plans need to be more detailed than other general risk management documentation and must indicate:

  • the nature of the principal mining hazard
  • how it relates to other hazards at the mine
  • the analysis methods used in identifying the principal mining hazard
  • a record of the risk assessment conducted in relation to the principal mining hazard
  • the investigation and analysis methods used in determining the control measures to be implemented
  • a description of control measures to be implemented to manage risks associated with the principal mining hazards
  • a description for providing to workers the information, training and instruction required in relation to the principal mining hazard
  • any design principles, engineering standards and technical standards relied on for control measures for the principal mining hazards
  • the reasons for adopting or rejecting the control measures considered.

There are a number of environmental principal mining hazards that relate to ground or strata failure, inundation or inrush of any substance, mine shafts and winding operations, roads or other vehicle operating areas, air quality or dust or other airborne contaminants, fire or explosion, gas outbursts and spontaneous combustion.

Hazard management plans

Hazard management plans

A principal mining hazard management plan must be prepared for each principal mining hazard present at a mine site and that has the potential to cause multiple deaths or to cause recurring incidents.

In preparing a principal mining hazard management plan, the mine operator must address additional matters that related to the relevant WHS regulations. Whilst smaller mining operations may require less detailed plans, where there is an identified principal mining hazard, control measures must be in place to mitigate associated risks.

Essentially, the identification of the hazard is just the start of the process. The next steps are assessing the consequences and controlling the risks.

Successful managing safety measures on a mine site

One of the most efficient ways to manage risks, especially those related to machinery operation, is to ensure that all machinery undergoes regular maintenance and periods of downtime to ensure they are safety compliance and are not damaged or faulty. Responsible operational managers can reduce significant risks where machinery is properly maintained for their employees, as it reduces the risk of accidents occurring due to faults.

Locksafe is committed to safety on mining sites

Locksafe is committed to safety on mining sites

Essentially, not matter the identified risk, it is the responsibility of all individuals on site to follow correct WHS procedures when it comes to principal and secondary mining hazards. Successfully following outlines risk and hazard management plans reduces the likelihood of injury and accident and proves a safer workplace for everyone. Locksafe is committed to providing safety management equipment such as machine isolators and lockout devices to make your mine site a safer place. If your organisation needs manufactured locking brackets, isolators, switches, or a speciality product to support safe machinery shutdowns, Locksafe can assist you. Get in touch with the team today on (08) 9455 7255 or reach out online.

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