Deaths in the Mining Industry

The mining industry has swelled in recent years and currently employs approximately 100,000 people in Western Australia. In 2012, the mining industry celebrated a year with no fatalities. The most recent fatality, in August 2013, was the first in two years. Interestingly, as the number of people employed by the mining industry has increased, the number of fatalities has decreased.

In October 2013, Western Australia’s Department of Mines and Petroleum released findings from a study into mining fatalities in Western Australia between 2000 and 2012. During this time the mining industry increased by 60,000 workers and suffered 52 deaths. The results show that 49% of mining deaths during this time involved workers who were in their first year at the mine site or in a new role. In addition to this 44% of the deaths involved supervisors in their first year in that role. This potentially shows that the combination of a first year miner and a first year supervisor could dramatically increase the likelihood of a fatality occurring. Employers should be conscious of this inexperience risk when forming work crews and appointing supervisors.

The study revealed that 62% of fatalities involved onsite procedures not being followed. Whilst this result is not surprising, it does suggest that many incidents could be prevented by staff proactively ensuring that they are complying with the requirements of the site. There is significant room for improvement in this area from both employers and employees.

The DMP Safety Director, Simon Ridge stated that the results “drive the point home that we must always apply known precautions to known hazards and, where new tasks, machines or processes are being introduced, detailed hazard analysis and risk assessment should be carried out.”

Employers can also guard against the risk of fatalities by focusing on the importance of inductions, training and familiarisation with new work areas. Mining companies usually require inductions for each new work area and these results support the need for this practice to continue. Most mining companies will already have a strong system in place for hazard identification and risk assessment, however there is a need for constant review to ensure these processes are being followed.

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