Cornerstone - Summer 2014 - (Page 47)
Evaluating Safety and Health
in Australia's Mining Sector
By Melanie Stutsel
Director of Health, Safety, Environment, and Community,
Minerals Council of Australia
ustralia's mining sector seeks to be a global leader in
safety and health, but a recent spike in accidents has
underlined the need to continue improving. The industry is now exploring new ways of thinking about safety to
reach its ultimate goal: zero harm.
By definition, a danger is an immediate threat to people, property, or the environment, where an appropriate response is
necessary to avoid the threat. A danger exists when no protective measures are in place. A hazard can be defined as
something that could pose a threat if appropriate action is not
taken. To ensure safety, a hazard must be assessed for risk and
for ways of eliminating or minimizing that risk. Although the
minerals industry accepts that inherent hazards exist, there
is no reason for working in the industry to be dangerous.
Recognizing this distinction is important. It helps in the identification of effective strategies and actions needed to deal with
the risks associated with mining.
Mining, and particularly underground mining, can be a hazardous venture. Coal miners face many risks on the job,
including cave-ins or fall of ground, gas explosions, vehicle or
mobile equipment collisions or crushing, chemical exposure,
electrocution, and fires. To our great sorrow, serious accidents
have occurred and some have led to loss of life. Whatever
its other priorities, the mining industry's primary goal must
always be safety.
"Although the minerals industry
accepts that inherent hazards exist,
there is no reason for working in the
industry to be dangerous."
Mine site experience suggests the risks associated with mining can be managed by adopting a hierarchy of controls. The
most effective starting point is to remove the hazard. If this
cannot be done, management and workers must methodically progress through alternative controls, such as improved
engineering solutions, better administration and management
of the workforce and work, and the deployment of personal
More broadly, there is a need to constantly re-examine the
presumptions that underpin safety efforts. For example, new
research underway, but not yet published, has indicated that
the traditional management of near misses and injury may
not necessarily remove risks that could lead to fatalities. This
research represents a challenge to almost a century of understanding in occupational health and safety (OHS). The industry
might not be best served by continuing to work in accordance
with long-standing risk management models because they are
proving to be inaccurate in predicting if a fatality will occur.
The Australian industry agrees there is a need to refocus
our energy and resources. The industry's strong conviction
is that all work-related fatalities, injuries, and diseases are
No task is so important that it cannot be done safely.
The traditional ways of thinking about safety may not be the
best approach for Australia's mining sector.
All hazards can be identified and their risk managed.
Ultimately, everyone has a responsibility for the safety and
health of themselves and their coworkers.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Cornerstone - Summer 2014
From the Editor: Water Crisis Calls for Common Action
Cover Story: Shifting the Paradigms of Health and Safety in Mining
Commitment to Safety
Modern Energy: The “Golden Thread” That Connects People, Economies, and Progress
Studying the Dominance
of Coal in China’s Energy Mix
Advancing the Alleviation of Energy Poverty
Energy Poverty in India and
What’s Needed to Address It
Balancing South Africa’s Energy Poverty and Climate Change Commitments
Europe Struggles to Pay Its Energy Bill
Shenhua Group’s Preemptive Risk Control System: An Effective Approach for Coal Mine Safety Management
Evaluating Safety and Health
in Australia’s Mining Sector
CORESafety®: A System to Overcome the Plateau in U.S. Mine Safety and Health Management
Sustainable Charcoal: A Key Component of Total Energy Access?
An Analysis of the Interdependence Between China’s Economy and Coal
Synergetic Technologies for
Coal and Gas Extraction in China
The Global Need for Clean
Coal Technologies and J-COAL’s Roadmap to Get There
Cornerstone - Summer 2014