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Whitehaven Maules Creek ‘mauling’ by regulator

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Whitehaven's Maules Creek mine came under fire by the NSW Regulator Again

The Whitehaven Maules Creek mine has come under fire over its management of light vehicles and collision avoidance after a dozer reversed over an unoccupied light vehicle this past week.

Inspectors from the Resources Regulator issued a notice prohibiting the use of all vehicles at the Maules Creek Open Cut Coal Mine in the Gunnedah Basin.

On the 16th September 2019, the NSW regulator attended the site to conduct an investigation into the incident dozer light vehicle collision. The regulator said that “During the inspection, alleged repeated breaches of mine procedures relating to the safe operation of light vehicles were identified by inspectors.”

“The inspectors considered the nature and prevalence of these breaches constituted a serious risk to the health and safety of workers and consequently a notice under section 195 of the Work Health Safety Act was served on the mine operator”

“The prohibition notice will remain in place until the mine has undertaken re-training of all workers and supervisors. It is envisaged that as workers on each shift are retrained, operations will recommence progressively”

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Whitehaven’s management said yesterday that the matter is under control and the mine is operating as normal. ‘The Maules Creek mine in the Gunnedah Basin is operating normally after it completed re-training of workers ordered by the NSW Resources Regulator, a Whitehaven spokesman told the Financial Review.

In an interesting move, the mine was required to have a 30-minute ‘safety reset’ retraining all staff on procedures surrounding light vehicles. The mine reportedly ceased operation and retrained workers on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning.

Health and Safety Consultant and AMSJ columnist, John Ninness, told AMSJ that he is concerned that a ‘safety reset’ is potentially being viewed as a panacea to solving mining safety issues. Mr Ninness said ‘In terms of the hierarchy of controls…a safety reset is clearly not good enough’

He said he feared that the normalisation of a ‘safety reset’ in the industry was potentially dangerous to mine worker health and safety. “When a vehicle interaction occurs, there is clearly a lack of effective engineering measures to prevent the collision’

‘Vehicle interactions have been proven to be deadly in the past. There is available technology available to prevent, or at least mitigate this type of event occurring’ he said.

But he added criticism of regulators as well saying that ‘Regulators across Australia have the capacity to mandate adoption of new technologies to prevent mining incidents…but they seem to be hesitant to mandate these. It seems to be left up to the industry to adopt or develop standards. Then the regulator follows with legislation after the shortcomings are identified’

‘Government’s need to be shaping the future of mine and keeping up with the rapid technological changes that are occurring across the industry’ he said.

The NSW mine safety regulator said it will continue to investigate the collision and will be seeking to address the recent spate of tragic light vehicle incident across the industry.

Image: Not Actual Incident –

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