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Inexperienced workers a factor in mine death increase

 

Speaking at the Department of Mines and Petroleum Mine Safety Roadshow in Geraldton on Tuesday, mine safety inspector Doug Barclay said an influx of inexperienced mine workers is partly to blame for the increase in workplace fatalities in the WA resources industry.

The number of workplace deaths at mine sites has gradually increased from zero in 2012, three in 2013 and 2014, to four so far in 2015.

“We’ve had a number of fatalities from people being caught between moving equipment or having heavy loads fall on them,” Mr Barclay said.

“The use of elevating platforms in the workplace is another area of concern with a fatality from an operator who was pinned between an elevating basket of the machine.

“It was an underground operation and he was pinned between the roof of the workings with the basket pinning him and he died as a result of those injuries.”

Mr Barclay said it was evident the industry is not learning from previous mistakes, with similarities between current and past incidents.

He said the mining downturn has seen many experienced workers leaving the industry.

“That left a vacuum in the mining industry that was filled with less experienced people. Now we’ve got a situation where we’ve got less experience or a lower level of experience of people than we’ve had over previous years,” Mr Barclay said.

“Those people came in five or six years ago as an inexperienced new miner, but now over the passage of time they are now in a position of leadership within that site so they are perhaps not as well equipped to warn any of the new ones coming in behind them of the dangers they need to address.”

Mr Barclay also said cost pressures were also a significant factor in workplace safety.

“Cost cutting is part of every mining company’s strategy at present so it means the level of support is down, the resources are down, perhaps the level of training that is available is reduced,” he said.

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