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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
The recent events of the Grosvenor gas explosion and the on-going inquiry into these events have revealed a range of concerns across the underground coal mining industry on how effective are the industry’s critical controls to manage principal hazards.
It seems, on the surface at least, that the normalisation of high potential incidents may have brought about a deadly complacency in the mining industry. When we accept that high potential incidents (HPI) are the ‘norm’ we clearly have a problem.
Over the last several months the frequency of high potential incidents has continued at alarming levels. Hundreds of HPI’s every week continue to be accepted by Governments, Unions and Mining Companies as just part of industry practice.
It’s true that all reported HPIs aren’t the same or may have the same impacts on operations and personnel. For example, a fire in the engine bay on a light vehicle on the surface can be contrast against frequent gas ignitions in underground coal. They are both HPI events but their outcomes can be very different.
The apparent difficulty in understanding what priorities and follow up actions are applied to specific HPI incidents in Queensland underground mines is a perplexing one.
Just this week we have heard through Queensland’s Board of Inquiry that government inspectors and industry safety and health representatives use personal discretion in deciding which incidents may be subject to more scrutiny.
‘Personal discretion’ to follow up and close out high potential incidents is concerning given that it may be impacted by a range of factors including the relationship between individuals and indeed conditions of how one inspector might be feeling on the day. It is simply not good enough that in this day and age that these subjective processes are used to protect mine workers.
I also worry that mine safety is becoming an economic commodity by those who regulate and inspect it. I worry that the level of scrutiny is brought about not by the seriousness of the incident itself but rather by the resources available to pay due attention to its’ investigation and corrective action.
This edition we examine the emerging issues being uncovered through the Queensland Board of Inquiry and why they might occur in an age of technology.
Tim Cartlege shares his thoughts about one the open cut operations principal hazards, we look at some new autonomous technologies for underground operations. Andrew Vickers takes a look back at July and a range of historical incidents that occurred across the industry.
Emeritus Professor Odwyn Jones and Clinical Professor Bill Musk highlight another emerging issue in underground mines, the synergistic effects of carcinogenic dust and fumes in underground coal mines.
Finally, Courtney Nickel et al examine the issues surrounding performance variability in virtual reality mining simulators. Of course, we have a range of other leading articles on safety in the mining industry including managing COVID-19. We hope that you enjoy the issues and walk away with some inspiration for making change for safety in the industry.