[hr]The design and signage of Australian public roads is highly regulated, but who’s regulating haul roads on a mine site, asks Richard Jois.[hr]
Most incidents occur on mine sites at locations where the road is deficient in design.The investigation of these incidents identifies improvements at the location of the incident but usually the issues go deeper. The haul road design and maintenance guidelines need to reflect what a safe road should look like; too often they are generic and do not give sufficient information to build a safe road.
The public road network is designed to Australian Standards; there is no mine haul road standard. Haul road design and maintenance of haul roads are critical functions of the mine and the haul roads should be designed and maintained to the safest possible standard.
The incidence of truck rollover or vehicle-to-vehicle collisions or near misses is ever present on a mine site due to the mix of vehicles-haul trucks, road trains and watering trucks together with cranes, excavators and contractor vehicles all operating on the mine haul roads.
The mines have an opportunity to improve their mine haul roads using demonstrated road safety techniques and reduce the likelihood of incidents and crashes if they build and maintain them to a high standard with safety as a focus.
Within the mining sector, there are few road builders or traffic and safety engineers; this contributes to substandard roads and intersections. There is usually little understanding or planning of the road hierarchy in the mine and roads are built and maintained with limited resources and equipment.
When assessing mining assets, roads are not recognised for high levels of expenditure as it is not easy to put a value on the roads as they are not seen as a resource such as coal or iron ore.
The public road network uses Australian Standards and Austroads Guidelines to ensure the road is built and maintained to a high standard. Signage and delineation is provided to guide drivers, intersections are signed in advance with warning signs and directional signs so drivers can traverse the road network easily. Speed limits are set and managed in accordance with the road hierarchy and function.[pullQuote]”We should therefore look to provide the same road environment as on the public road network with consistent signage, delineation, simple intersection design and layout.”[/pullQuote]
Most Australian mine sites operate under Australian road rules and expect drivers to comply with the speed and regulatory signs installed. However, there is no consistent intersection design or signage to conform to. All too often there are many posted speed limits ranging from 5 km/h to 100 km/h. The drivers could be forgiven for making mistakes in this environment. We should therefore look to provide the same road environment as on the public road network with consistent signage, delineation, simple intersection design and layout. Mine operations should post speed limits that match the design and layout of the road. This requires an understanding of who the road users are and providing pedestrian-friendly areas when required around workshops and administration areas.