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Queensland mining downturn coincides with high fatality rate

Is the mining downturn having an impact on the health and safety of workers?

Department of Natural Resources and Mines Deputy Director-General of Mine Safety and Health and Chair of the Queensland Mining Industry Health and Safety Conference Paul Harrison said he was concerned about the “loss of knowledge and experience in the industry as it downsizes”.

“The effective management of risk requires experienced, knowledgeable and competent people and if you don’t have them the outcome will be an increase in serious accidents,” Mr Harrison said.

“Better training and development and support of managers and supervisors is needed.”

He said he was also concerned that the downturn in the industry is putting unnecessary stress on workers, with the largest number of Queensland mine fatalities recorded in more than a decade.

“…downsizing in the industry is putting people under mental stress and in a mindset that distracts them from a proper focus on working safely,” he said.

“We have seen six fatal accidents in Queensland mines in a 10-month period from 2014 to 2015.

“The circumstances of each seems to be unrelated, but are the current financial stresses the industry is enduring creating an underlying problem with the safety focus of individuals that has led to this spate of accidents?”

A main theme of the conference, held in Townsville earlier this week, was sharing information on risks, incidents and successes among mine operations.

“Sharing is a vitally important for improved safety and health outcomes,” Mr Harrison said.

“We don’t do it well in the mining industry currently but we need to work on improving sharing. This must involve the regulator, industry and workers’ representatives.”

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