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Midwest WA mines face safety crack-down

Western Australia’s resources safety watchdog has embarked on a major crack down targeting injuries and ‘near misses’ in the Midwest mining sector, following two serious incidents during the past couple of months at Karara mine.

Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) Resources Safety Executive Director Simon Ridge said while there had not been any Midwest mining fatalities for nearly the past five years – and the State achieved a fatality-free year in 2012 – he was concerned by recent incidents.

The most recent incident saw a worker seriously injured at Karara mine on 25 May.

“DMP is investigating the matter, including whether the correct tools and proper procedures were followed to remove a spreader bar from an iron ore screen box at the mine’s processing plant,” Mr Ridge said.

The worker, who was one of three other workers performing the commissioning maintenance work, was allegedly struck in the face by a tool – causing mouth fractures, lip lacerations and a broken tooth.

There was also a serious ‘near miss’ incident at Karara mine on 24 April, where an 80 tonne crane suffered a major structural collapse during load testing, dropping the load in the vicinity of four workers.

“It is unsettling and disappointing that these incidents have occurred, so it is up to my inspectors to get to the root cause,” Mr Ridge said.

“We have commenced thorough investigations into both incidents, and we are interviewing witnesses and managers.”

Mr Ridge said DMP was currently paying additional attention to the mine and other Midwest operations, to ensure high safety standards were being maintained.

“By the end of September this year, we will have inspected Karara on 12 different occasions,” he said.

Forty nine workers have been injured at Midwest mine sites during the past year, including 10 serious injuries, while 256 ‘near misses’ have been reported.

Mr Ridge said resources safety remained the department’s number one priority.

“The important thing to remember is most companies and workers are doing the right thing – attitudes to mines safety are improving across WA,” he said.

“In fact, WA’s lost time injury frequency rate has decreased by 50 per cent in the past decade.

“However, as with anything in life – you can’t eliminate risk but you can work to mitigate it, and that’s what workers and managers need to be doing at all times.

“We must ensure all mines sites across the Midwest and the State adhere to prescribed legal requirements when it comes to safety, and support a positive cultural change.”

Mr Ridge said some mining incidents occurred due to human error and inattention, while others were caused by operators with poor safety cultures.

“I strongly urge all managers to ensure mining workers aren’t placed in harm’s way, and I urge mining workers to remain careful and follow procedures,” he said.

DMP is also clamping down on mines safety in the Goldfields, after two serious injuries occurred at St Ives mining operations during the past fortnight.

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