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Qld mining safety review tabled in parliament

Friday 21, Feb 2020

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Qld mining safety review tabled in parliament | NSCA Foundation newsletter the Safe-T-Bulletin

review of all fatal accidents in Queensland mines and quarries from 2000 to 2019 has been tabled in parliament. It was conducted by Dr Sean Brady. The ‘Brady review’ is one of two reviews that were commissioned by the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy following a serious incident at a mine in Collinsville, and the death of a worker at a mine in Baralaba, in July 2019. In it, Brady makes 11 recommendations to improve mine and quarry safety regulations in Queensland.

Recommendations

The first recommendation relates to the industry’s fatality cycle; an analysis of the last decade revealed a pattern characterised by a period with a number of fatalities, followed by periods with few to no fatalities. This indicates that the industry experiences periods of increasing and decreasing vigilance. The Queensland mining industry must change how it operates, to prevent the rate of fatalities from continuing at current levels.

The second recommendation urges the industry to recognise that the fatalities are largely caused by a combination of everyday factors, such as a failure of controls, lack of training or inadequate supervision. Internal investigations in mining companies must not mask the underlying system failures that caused the fatalities, and avoid simplifying them to a single cause (eg, human error). By attributing fatalities to a single cause such as bad luck, mining companies often fail to determine what caused them, and therefore cannot take steps to prevent fatalities from occurring in a similar manner in future.

Per the third and fourth recommendations in the Brady review, workers must be appropriately trained and supervised for the tasks they undertake, to ensure they perform tasks in a manner that does not expose them to hazards. The fifth recommendation urges the industry to ensure the effectiveness and enforcement of controls to manage hazards. Implementing more effective controls, such as elimination, substitution, isolation or engineering controls, could also reduce the serious accident frequency rate.

To reduce the rate of serious accidents and fatalities, the Brady review recommends that the mining industry should adopt the principles of high reliability organisation (HRO) theory. The theory identifies the incidents that are precursors to larger failures, and uses this data to prevent further failures. Adopting a HRO theory requires the refinement or addition of specific competencies to the mining industry and the regulator. The seventh recommendation urges the regulator to play a key role in collating, identifying, analysing and disseminating the lessons learned from the incident and the fatality data. This recommendation is included to help the Queensland mining industry operate like high reliability organisations.

The eighth recommendation relates to the development of a simplified incident reporting system that is unambiguous, easy to use and encourages open reporting. The Brady review describes the current system as cumbersome and difficult for the industry to use; to combat the issue of under-reporting incidents, the new system should be in line with modern mobile technology, preferably app-based, thereby minimising the administrative burden of reporting.

The Brady review’s ninth recommendation states that the industry should shift its focus from lost time injuries (LTIs) and the lost time injury frequency rate (LTIFR) as a safety indicator. As LTIs are easily manipulated and measure how the industry manages injuries after they have occurred, they are not a reliable indication of industry safety. The Brady review recommends adopting the serious accident frequency rate (SAFR) as a measure of safety in the industry as its tenth recommendation. Adopting the SAFR over the LTIFR is recommended, as the SAFR reflects how many workers are seriously injured and is less likely to be manipulated, as it requires third-party determination from a medical professional.

The final Brady review recommendation encourages the regulator to adopt the high potential incident frequency rate as a measure of safety in the industry, as it provides the best opportunity to identify and control hazards before they cause harm.

Response

“I commend Dr Brady on his thorough work and his broad-reaching findings,” said Stephen Smyth, the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union Queensland President. “This report is damning about the state of safety in the Queensland mining industry. The Union supports its call for a comprehensive overhaul of safety culture in the industry. We will work through the findings and keep fighting for the necessary changes to protect mineworkers’ lives.”

“It is a disturbing finding that the tragic fatalities we have seen over the past 18 months are likely to continue unless urgent and comprehensive action is taken. It is sobering to read that fatalities are more often caused by ‘banal, straightforward’ events than freak accidents,” Smyth said.

A statement from Ian Macfarlane, Queensland Resources Council (QRC) Chief Executive, commended the Brady review for providing information that can be used to further enhance safety in the industry.

“QRC endorses all of the recommendations of the Brady Review. QRC commits to redoubling efforts to do everything possible to maintain vigilance and remain safe. QRC fully accepts that while the mining industry has inherent risk, we must always improve the focus on the practical actions that can keep our workers safe. QRC will now undertake further detailed review of Dr Brady’s findings as a matter of urgency,” Macfarlane said.

The full review is available here.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/curto