A spate of recent mining accidents involving light vehicle and heavy machinery has mining safety awareness back in the news.
A light vehicle was almost crushed by a 100 tonne D11 Caterpillar dozer at the Mt Arthur coal mine operated by BHP.
Thankfully, no one was fatally injured in the incident.
Open-cut coal mining operations in Australia involve the use of a wide range of mining machinery. Heavy plant is used to excavate, load and haul all manner of rocks, coal, overburden and iron ore.
Despite high-level training and risk assessment reviews, mining accidents still occur – especially between smaller light vehicles and larger earth moving machinery such as haul trucks and dozers.
“this incident happened in broad daylight”
This particular incident happened in broad daylight around 1pm. The driver of the LV had been working on other machinery in the vicinity and was called to use the dozer to complete shovel clean-up works. After completing the job, the operator parked the dozer back in its original position as the original dozer driver was waiting to use the machine.
What happened next is typical of how unclear communications could have caused a fatality.
The dozer and LV driver discussed how the dozer would be deployed to smooth out an access ramp and that the LV driver was to wait at the designated safe parking area until the dozer driver had completed his work.
A life threatening incident
The dozer driver continued to back blade the ramp and was working on completing the job when the driver of the LV drove up to the ramp as he had thought the dozer driver had completed the job. In an unfortunate example of why positive communications between vehicles and persons operating heavy machinery is critical, the following occurred.
“radio communications failure”
The driver of the LV was now parked in the path of the dozer, although according to the report, the LV driver had used his radio to contact with the dozer driver as he reversed his machine towards the parked LV. Fearing the dozer driver did not hear his radio comms, the LV driver unsuccessfully attempted to put the vehicle into reverse.
“a crippled LV with the driver inside”
At this stage, things were getting serious. A crippled LV with the driver inside was being approached by a reversing 100 tonne dozer and the dozer driver was unaware of the vehicle parked right behind him. Sounding the horn repeatedly, the LV driver was in a life threatening situation with nowhere to turn.
The dozer reversed over the passenger side of the LV, crushing the entire cabin, before moving forward again. On this occasion both operators walked away unscathed, however there could have been a very different outcome.
What can we learn from this?
Radio and face-to-face communications form the backbone of mining safety protocols. Extensive training is given to every employee who enters a mining environment. The Queensland Standard 11 mining induction program is a perfect example of why safety training and induction is critical for all workers.
“mining environments follow strict protocols”
Radio communications in mining environments follow strict protocols and for good reason. Mine sites have created exacting site plans, where designated roadways, parking and operational areas are clearly marked to prevent plant and machinery interfering with one another.
“acutely aware of the potential risks”
Mining induction training is critical for all employees, as it reinforces the need to be acutely aware of the potential risks and hazards that exist on a mine site.
Light vehicle and 4WD training courses are generally made available to all workers who are required to be mobile in a mining operation.
Typically, multi-disciplined heavy plant operators are required to operate different types of plant at different times of the day. Getting from one location to the other would be by way of a light vehicle, so we can see why there is a strong emphasis placed on light vehicle, communications and risk assessment.
The NSW Mine Safety Investigation Unit has issued new guidelines to prevent this sort of mining accident from occurring in the future.
- Assess the effectiveness of transport management rules and procedures.
- Create new opportunities to eliminate LV and heavy machinery interactions.
- Better implementation of hard barriers.
- Examination of the effect and impact of human factors when reviewing risks.
- Increased use of technology such as collision avoidance and proximity detection systems on mining equipment and vehicles.
- Review the impact of task specific activities on situational awareness such as back-blading.
- Assess the adequacy of current mine site fitness for work programs; and
- How effective are current radio communication systems.
Light vehicle courses offer new starters and current mine site workers in-depth safety training and insights on the operating a vehicle in a mining and quarrying environment.
Mining safety and risk management is the responsibility of all employees, no matter what type of job they are employed to do.
Learn the correct safety procedures, develop new skills in positive radio communications, keep safe and be aware at all times.