A new report says a major safety overhaul is needed in Queensland's mining sector. Image by PR HANDOUT IMAGE PHOTO

Mining and Resources

Qld mining in a ‘fatality cycle’: report

2020-02-07 17:15:02

Queensland’s mining sector is in the grip of a death cycle and more lives are at risk without a safety overhaul, a report has found.  

This is the top recommendation of a review of 47 deaths in the state’s mines and quarries from 2000 to 2019.

Eight people have died while working at a Queensland mine or quarry in the past two years, which is more than any other state.

Most of the 47 fatalities weren’t freak accidents and were preventable, says the forensic structural engineer who analysed the deaths for the state government. 

“Almost all of the fatalities were the result of systemic, organisational, supervision or training failures, either with or without the presence of human error,” Dr Sean Brady wrote.

He found human error alone would not have caused these fatalities, and that it played no part at all in 17 of the deaths.

There were 10 incidents involving individuals being aware of faults but with no action being taken, while nine fatalities had known near-misses occur prior to their death. 

Dr Brady, whose report was made public by the state government on Thursday, found the mining industry goes through periods of better and worse vigilance.

But that doesn’t mean that the industry becomes safer.

“If the industry continues to take a similar approach to safety, using the same philosophies and methodologies adopted over the past 19-and-a-half years, then similar safety outcomes are to be expected,” Dr Brady wrote.

The CFMMEU’s Stephen Smyth said this finding was disturbing, and called for a comprehensive overhaul of safety culture.

Two government committees will mull over the Brady review along with two University of Queensland reviews of existing laws before making recommendations to Mines Minister Anthony Lynham.

They will identify key priorities areas the government needs to address, including potential changes to the law to force industry reforms. 

Dr Brady predicts around 12 deaths are likely to occur every five years based on previous patterns. 

“Perhaps one of the biggest stumbling blocks to reducing the number of fatalities is how the mining industry views itself,” he added.

“Mining is a hazardous industry, but that doesn’t mean that workers and their families must continue to suffer the consequences of these hazards.”

Mining firms have been urged to recognise the industry’s death cycle, avoid simplifying causes of death, ensure workers are adequately trained and supervised, properly enforce controls to avoid hazards and simplify incident reporting, among other recommendations.