Staying Safe on the Job: Working in Mining

Inherent risks are part of every industry, but when it comes to mining, the serious accident frequency rate (SAFR) has been steadily increasing from 0.59 to 1.0 serious accidents per million hours worked in 2014-15 and 2018-19 respectively. Thankfully, in 2019-20, the SAFR reduced by a whopping 30%. While it’s positive to see a dramatic decrease in these numbers, it does beg the questions of what has been done and what can still be done better to continue the downward trend?

There is a strong argument to be made for the correlation between the new laws passed by the Queensland parliament, which came into effect in July 2020, and the decreased injury and fatality numbers. The recent law introduced maximum penalties of $13 million and 20 years’ jail time for mining employers who fail to uphold their duty of care on the worksite.

For employers, this makes them criminally liable when:

  • An employee dies during carrying out work at the mine, is injured in the course of doing work at the mine and later dies; and
  • The employer/manager’s behaviour causes the death of the worker; and
  • The employer/manager’s behaviour is negligent in causing the death of the employee by the conduct.

In an industry where heavy machinery, moving objects, and long hours are daily occurrences, staying safe needs to be a top priority not only for employers but for the individual workers as well. Over 50% of injuries in mining come from muscle strains and sprains (musculoskeletal injuries) which is a staggering figure for something that seems more preventable than injuries involving machinery and heavy items. What’s more, these types of injuries might not happen immediately, but may gradually flare up over time making it even more important to stay on top of it. So, where to start?

Talk to your employer about safety protocols

Have a regular discussion with your manager/supervisor about current training protocols and staying up to date with the necessary procedures for your site. In 2019, all Queensland miners were required to partake in safety training focussed on the fatal risks at their mine site with the aim of pressing ‘reset’ in an industry that was responsible for a number of deaths in the preceding twelve months.

Stay on top of your own health and fitness

‘Body stressing’ represented 39% of workers’ compensation claims in the mining industry between 2001–02 and 2014–15. These kinds of injuries likely happen when moving, carrying, or placing down heavy objects, and while it’s long been believed that following the common ‘safe’ lifting techniques is enough to avoid injury, evidence suggests there is actually no single safe way to lift. Perform a simple risk assessment to establish whether or not handling a particular object is viable and safe given your own fitness levels. From a proactive approach, one of the most effective ways to reduce your risk of injury from lifting objects is to participate in regular strength training that increases overall strength and mobility, and to seek assistance with the task where possible.

Stay alert and don’t get too comfortable

When you’re just starting out, there’s a higher likelihood that your senses are more aware as you learn and get your bearings of the work environment. As time goes on, in most workplaces, it is easy to become complacent and make poor decisions that affect your and your colleague’s safety on the job. Wearing PPE when required is key to preventing injury as a result of chemical usage, excessive noise, and vehicle accidents.

While some safety advice might seem like common sense or even tedious to some degree, until the number of injuries and deaths in mining are closer to zero, these best practices are an excellent place to start in reducing your risk of injury. Understanding your rights, your employer’s legal obligations, and what their duty of care is to you can provide invaluable support if (and we hope not when) faced with an injury at work.

Mining has long been an industry known for its long hours and safety risks. You can find out more about FIFO workers compensation claims here or reach out to our team at Gouldson for a free case review.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]


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