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Emergencies & Rescue

Mines prepare for cyclone season

mine cyclone season
Cyclone preparation is underway at mine sites across Australia

In preparation for cyclone season many mines across Australia have already formalised emergency response plans for cyclone related events but mining safety regulators are warning that there is no place for complacency.

The cyclone season officially started on 1 November 2018 and will run through to 30 April 2019. The Bureau of Meteorology has indicated that the probability of cyclones will be reduced due to the effects El Niño

On average, there are 10 to 13 tropical cyclones each season in the Australian region, four of which typically cross the coast. El Niño typically reduces the number of coastal crossings, but at least one tropical cyclone has crossed the Australian coast each season since reliable records began in the 1970s.

The BOM advised that “during El Niño years, the first tropical cyclone to cross the coast is typically during the second week of January. This is generally later than seasons which are ENSO-neutral when the first cyclone landfall typically occurs in late December.”

DMIRS Deputy Director General Safety, Ian Munns said it only took one cyclone to impact an unprepared site for there to be a devastating impact.

“It is critical that mining and petroleum operators have adequate plans and provide appropriate training to protect workers from hazards at the workplace, including natural hazards such as cyclones,” Munns said.

An alert developed by the DMIRS advised mining operators to develop emergency procedures and plans in conjunction with advice from emergency services organisations and other regional emergency planning groups where their work sites and camps are located.

The DMIRS said in its’ cyclone safety alert that “emergency plans should include details for making the site safe and ensuring the safety of personnel as far as is practicable. This should include the removal or restraint of loose objects and structures and evacuation of personnel. The plans must be communicated to all personnel likely to be on site during the cyclone season.”

The Department also re-iterated the need for mining sites to secure every accommodation unit or donga and every transportable building.

Back in 2007, Cyclone George claimed the lives of Debra Till, 47, and Craig Raabe, 42, while they sheltered in temporary accommodation dongas South of Port Hedland.

The WA State coroner found that the despite the camp being in a “cyclonic wind region”, the dongas were built using design standards that were applicable to “non-cyclonic wind areas”.

mine cyclone season
A surveyor admitted that his gross incompetence led to a workers camp being built in a high wind risk area

“It is hardly surprising that they were unable to withstand the cyclonic winds to which they were subjected on 9 March 2007,” she said.

“They were not designed nor constructed to withstand such forces.” Read more on this story

The DMIRS advised that “during the Blue and Yellow Alert Cyclone Warning phase, a safe and orderly evacuation of non-essential personnel from work sites or camps should be considered before high intensity cyclones pass by.

A range of preparedness issues for cyclone events at mining sites includes management of plant, equipment, electrical issues and potential flooding events.

Cyclone shelters can help save lives – read more on Minearc’s Storm Shelters

Read more Mining Safety News

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