Between 2010-2013 statistics showed that safety within the mining industry was improving, with the recorded number of fatalities remaining low when compared to the years prior. However, a spike of recent deaths this year is set to break this trend and has highlighted the need for both workers and employers to remain vigilant when it comes to work health and safety.
The Australian mining industry recorded 5 fatalities in 2010, 6 in 2011 and 8 fatalities in both 2012 and 2013 according to Safe Work Australia’s report Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities, Australia 2013.
This represented an improvement from the 10 fatalities in 2009, 12 in 2008 and 15 in 2006 (which was the highest recorded year through the 2003-2013 period).
However, in the first 6 months of this year, 12 fatalities have been recorded across Australia, bringing the industry close to fatality numbers not seen since 2006.
Safety alert issued
An increase in the number of workers killed on mine sites at the beginning of the year prompted the Queensland Mine Safety Commissioner to issue a safety alert to Queensland’s mining industry in February.
In the safety alert, Mine Safety Commissioner Stewart Bell said the continued loss of life was unacceptable and immediate steps must be taken to stop it.
“Each tragic report of a mine worker losing their life at work, signals a definite warning about mine safety management and its failure to effectively address hazards and manage risk,” he said.
“I cannot emphasise enough that the safety of all mine workers, regardless of whether they are a contractor or mine employee, is primarily the responsibility of the mine operator and site senior executive. This can only be achieved by implementing an effective single safety and health management system that manages all the personnel, equipment and activities associated with the mining operation regardless of who is undertaking the activity, owns the equipment and pays the workers.”
Sadly, since issuing the safety alert a further 9 fatalities were reported.
Steps towards a positive change
While employers are ultimately responsible for the safety of their workers, everybody has a role to play when it comes to workplace safety.
WorkCover Queensland Customer Services Manager, Mining, Matthew Cross says these tragic deaths are a sad reminder of why it’s important that workers and employers work together to identify and minimise risks.
“Safety is everyone’s responsibility, so if you see something that doesn’t seem right, report it to the relevant person to take the appropriate action and prevent someone from being injured or worse,” Mr Cross said.
“While it has been a tragic first half of the year for the industry, it’s never too late for workplaces to focus their efforts on work safety.”
“Working together and aiming for zero harm at work is crucial if we’re to prevent further workplace deaths from occurring in the mining industry.”