Health and Safety CONFERENCE

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Fatal Hazards and Critical Controls in Surface Coal Mines

Creswick Bulger
Senior Inspector of Mines, Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy

This paper discusses critical controls – those which can prevent fatal and catastrophic events from occurring in Queensland surface coal mines. To understand what the critical controls are we have to identify all fatal hazards in surface coal mines.

Analysis of all fatalities that have occurred in Queensland coal mines since 1969, show hazards causing the majority of fatalities in surface mines are distinctly different to those causing the majority of fatalities in underground mines. During this 50 year period there have been 132 fatalities in Queensland coal mines, 94 in underground and 38 in surface mines.

A breakdown shows 86% of fatalities in underground mines were caused by principal hazards. In surface mines only 24% of fatalities were caused by principal hazards. This means for surface mines the majority of critical controls relate to a number of fatal hazards which are not principal hazards.

Based on that analysis the Queensland coal mine inspectorate has sought information from surface coal mine companies relating to the fatal hazards and critical controls identified within their risk identification systems. This information will be developed into audit and inspection guidelines which the inspectorate will apply when carrying out inspections and audits at surface coal mines.