THE Western Australian Government has this week commenced its 2013 Mines Safety Roadshow, reminding industry workers that safety should be top priority on every Australian mine site.

Speaking to a crowd of 60 in Geraldton earlier this week, Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) executive director of resources safety Simon Ridge said at a time when the industry workforce has increased to 60,000, safety is more important than ever.

The DMP’s recent analysis of the 52 deaths occurring between 2000 and 2012 found 49% of the deaths involved workers in their first year at their respective mine sites or in new roles. Mr Ridge said these statistics highlighted the importance of inductions, training and familiarisations with new environments.

“We believe high staff turnover can also further influence the number of accidents in the first year of a new role,” Mr Ridge said.

The DMP study found 62% of the cases involved onsite procedures not being complied with.

“This drives the point home that we must always apply known precautions to known hazards and, where new tasks, machines or processes are being introduced, detailed hazard analysis and risk assessment should be carried out,” Mr Ridge said.

The research also showed that 44% of the fatal accidents involved supervisors in their first year ‘on the job’, meaning supervisors must be fully aware of the hazards and risks associated with set tasks to monitor workers accordingly.

During the 13-year timeframe, clusters of accidents occurred at the end of day shift (between 3:00pm and 6:00pm), five hours into both day and night shift (at 11:00am and 11.00pm) as well as at 3:00am.

“Although the sample size in our study is relatively small, these incident times seem to align with the very times when employees may be fatigued and more prone to making errors,” Mr Ridge said.

“That’s why it’s crucial for employers and employees to understand the importance of meal and rest breaks in improving energy and concentration, particularly every four hours during the common twelve hour shift.”

While the study did not show any evidence that longer rosters resulted in increased fatalities, more than half of the incidents involved employees working on the common two-on, one-off FIFO roster.

The most prevalent occupations included fitters (nine fatalities), haul truck operators (five fatalities), technicians, drivers and jumbo operators (4 fatalities each).

The largest cause of all incidents included incorrect use of fall arrest equipment; procedures not being followed; run-away vehicles, vehicles over edges and collisions; electrocution; rock falls and pit wall failures; water in-rush; and tyre handling.

56p% of incidents occurred at gold and nickel mining sites in the Goldfields, while Pilbara iron ore sites accounted for 33% – with 35 incidents occurring at surface and 17 underground.

“Because the number of surface employees was 10 times higher than those working underground during this 13 year timeframe – working underground during this time period carried five times more risk,” Mr Ridge said, urging companies and workers to take notice of the study’s important findings.

“We know a young contractor tragically lost his life at a Pilbara mine site earlier this year after a nearly two year fatality-free run,” Mr Ridge said.

“It’s for that reason the department carries out such studies, so that from a regulator perspective, we can provide feedback to industry to help stop these incidents from occurring.”

DMP is backed by a 60-strong safety inspector workforce, which carries out around 2400 site inspections each year.

The department’s annual Mines Safety Roadshow, which will also cover hierarchy of control, design and plant issues, will also be held in Port Hedland, Karratha, Newman, Bunbury, Kalgoorlie and Perth this month.

For more information, visit the Mines Safety Roadshow page by clicking here.