Emergency planning for mines

Operators of a prescribed mine must prepare and use an emergency plan as the primary means of responding to incidents involving risk of serious injury or death.

Read the Regulations

The duties referred to in this guidance are contained in Part 5.3 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations).

You must read the legislation in addition to this guidance.

  • This guidance refers to Regulations 427, 439, 441 and 433 – 437 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017, which are duties for operators of prescribed mines.
  • Operators of any mine should read Emergency exits (Regulation 427).
  • Operators of an underground mine should read Self-rescuers (Regulation 436).
  • For an overview of the relevant Regulations, read Duties for mine operators.

What is an emergency plan

Your emergency plan is the primary means of responding to emergencies at the mine.

In the event of any incident that involves the risk of serious injury or death, the emergency plan must be immediately implemented.

The plan should detail how to respond to all types of incidents that could happen and should be used when making decisions about planning or in response to incidents at the mine.

How to create an emergency plan

The recommended steps to follow when developing an emergency plan include:

  • Develop a working group of people who have the required knowledge and experience. At a minimum such personnel should have experience in health and safety, mine rescue, mine operations, risk management and administration.
  • Define the Emergency Plan's aim and objectives, keeping in mind its coverage is to be comprehensive, while keeping the structure as concise, simple and flexible as possible.
  • Gain a comprehensive and detailed understanding of the mine's Major Mining Hazards (MMH) and mining hazards. This should be done whilst referencing any Safety Assessments completed prior by the mine. Such Safety Assessments will provide an understanding of hazard risk and any implemented controls which will be relied upon during MMH events (e.g. Rock Fall event within a main decline and escape ways will be relied upon for personnel egress).
  • Develop a documented plan containing employee roles, procedures to be followed, allocation/location of resources, and communication requirements. Employees are to be consulted with during this process.
  • Monitor and review the plan’s effectiveness.

You must create your emergency plan in conjunction with:

  • local emergency services
  • local municipal council/s (where you have identified major mining hazards that could impact the local community)

You must consult with employees and health and safety representatives when preparing the emergency plan.

In the case of a prescribed mine, you must provide all employees with information, instruction and training in relation to the emergency plan.

You will most likely have documentation that can feed in to your emergency plan, such as:

  • fire safety studies
  • the plan of the mine
  • technical information of emergency equipment and fire systems
  • communications equipment list
  • list of rescue equipment,
  • training matrix
  • and shift rosters

Read the WorkSafe guidance on Consulting with employees and Health and Safety Representatives.

Read the WorkSafe guidance on Safety assessments for mines.

Create documentation that is fit for purpose

Anyone who needs to follow the emergency plan must be able to read and understand it.

Your plan should be written and set out as clearly as possible and translated into languages others than English as needed.

Where possible, use pictures and diagrams that can be easily understood.

What to include in your emergency plan

Regulation 433 lists what mines must consider when developing an emergency plan. Below is a summary of these requirements alongside relevant examples.

Basic information about the mine

The following basic information should be included:

  • Name of the mine
  • Name of the operating company
  • Location in relation to the nearest town
  • Location using latitude and longitude
  • Mailing address and contact telephone numbers (as well as fax number and e-mail address if applicable)
  • Mining lease number or Property Details
  • Name of relevant personnel (e.g. managers or emergency contacts)
  • Type of operation (e.g., underground, surface, quarry, exploration, sand and gravel)
  • List of chemical stores on the site
  • Maximum and minimum number of persons expected at the mine
  • Maximum number of persons likely to be affected by a major mining hazard event
  • Infrastructure likely to be affected by a major mining hazard event
  • Emergency planning assumptions, for example a description of the major mining events that may occur and the extent and nature of their influence within and beyond the mine's site boundary.

A stand-alone page or pages with the above information should be posted near phone and radio points dedicated for use in emergencies.

The emergency plan should provide clear written directions to the site, including maps/plans that can be used for navigation. The plan should also identify locations for possible transfer sites from mine emergency transport vehicles to public ambulances.

Plan of the mine

A detailed plan of the mine must be kept on-site and be available for inspection, pursuant to regulation 437 of the OHS Regulations.

The plan must clearly show:

  • workings, and any disused workings, of the mine
  • ventilation system, including all fans
  • locations of switchboard, transformers and fixed plant associated with electricity distribution system
  • telephone locations and other fixed plant associated with radio and telecommunications
  • water dams and tailing dams
  • natural features surrounding the mine
  • where hydrocarbons or explosives are stored
  • emergency exit

The plan must be regularly revised so that mine workings, including disused workings, are accurately shown.

Your plan should also include details of:

  • all emergency facilities, including:
    • emergency exit
    • marshalling/muster points
    • helicopter landing areas
    • first aid kits, fire extinguishers and hydrants
  • relevant reticulation services (e.g. electrical, gas), particularly underground services and power lines,
  • where toxic materials are kept on site, for example: cyanide and sulphuric acid, and any corresponding controls. These locations should be clearly sign posted

For more on duties regarding ventilation

Maintain contact lists for emergency assistance

The emergency plan should contain a contemporary list of contact names and phone numbers.  Each name is to have an allocated role which will be performed in the event of an emergency, for example: Emergency Controller. The contacts list is to be periodically reviewed to maintain accuracy.

Your emergency plan should include a separate page or pages with contact information for persons and external agencies that may need to be reached during an emergency.

Below are examples of contacts that should be included:

Resources and contacts Assistance they can provide
Company management Advice and resources approval
Emergency services:
  • Police
  • Ambulance
  • Fire and Rescue
  • State Emergency Services
  • WorkSafe Victoria
  • Local Municipality
Emergency response
Neighbouring mines and businesses General assistance, Memorandums of Understanding for mutual assistance
Government bodies Legal obligations and assistance
Equipment suppliers Rescue equipment
Consultants and equipment specialist Specific technical advice

Incident control and emergency response procedure

Make sure you identify:

  • first steps – who to call, how to call and when to call
  • who is responsible for implementing the emergency response
  • who is in charge of controlling the emergency operations
  • what communication systems are to be used during an emergency response (e.g. two-way radio, mobile phone, satellite phone)
  • list of tasks that need to be assigned to help manage the emergency and instructions on how to carry out the above tasks
  • on-site or on-call personnel who are trained in the use of rescue equipment.

Ensure that employees and visitors have appropriate training so they understand their responsibilities and what to do in an emergency.

Additional procedures

Your emergency plan may need to include site-specific procedures on how you will control:

  • site-specific hazards (such as cyanide and sulphuric acid)
  • safe evacuation and muster of personnel
  • disconnecting essential services
  • containment of any incident
  • rescue of personnel
  • management of incident spectators
  • preventing unauthorised access to the site, and
  • liaison with emergency services.

Emergency equipment and facilities

The equipment and facilities needed to deal with emergencies should be identified in the mine’s safety management system.

A list of the actual equipment and facilities available on-site should be recorded in the emergency plan.

Examples of emergency equipment and facilities:

  • First aid supplies
  • Fire pumps and extinguishers
  • Rescue equipment
  • Equipment that can be assigned to an emergency task (e.g., a bulldozer or excavator used to build roads and trails can be used in an emergency to dam or dyke a flood; Water truck for fire-fighting)
  • Industrial ambulance or emergency transport vehicle
  • Marshalling points,
  • Helicopter landing areas
  • External agencies that can source specific equipment, and
  • External agencies that can provide specific services.

First Aid supplies

In the event of emergency, on-site first aid equipment and facilities are essential.

To ensure first aid equipment is adequate and appropriate you should:

  • identify hazards which may cause an injury or illness (also consider employees existing illnesses, for example: diabetes, asthma, epilepsy, heart conditions)
  • assess the risk based on the type and extent of injuries or illnesses that may occur
  • decide on the appropriate first aid equipment and facilities - standard or generic first aid kits may need to be added to or modified to ensure they meet the needs of the mine
  • obtain the identified first aid equipment and facilities
  • monitor and review first aid equipment, facilities and services to ensure they continue to meet requirements.

The first aid kit must be appropriate for the types of injuries and illnesses likely to occur at the mine.

  • The first aid kit can be any size, but must be large enough to fit all the required contents.
  • A portable kit, or multiple kits, may be required.
  • Consider placing appropriate kits in all mobile equipment.
  • First aid kits' locations should be clearly signed.
  • Include single use, disposable items in the kit where possible - reusable items must be cleaned, sterilised and disinfected.

Emergency exit

Operators of prescribed mines must provide a means for employees to exit the mine in addition to the hoisting shaft, decline or exit normally used. The emergency exit must be:

  • functional and adequately maintained so it can be used, and
  • clearly signposted so it can be found during an incident.

You must ensure your safety management system provides details on how you:

  • maintain the emergency exit and ensure it is without obstruction and ready for use
  • ensure employees can find the exit during an emergency
  • test the emergency exit to ensure it is fit for purpose
  • inform employees about when and how to use it, and
  • consult with affected employees and Health and Safety Representatives when planning or making changes to the emergency exit

Self-rescuers

Operators of an underground mine must provide self-rescuers to any person who goes underground at the mine in accordance with regulation 436 of the OHS Regulations.

If reasonably practicable, employees should be provided with self-contained self-rescuers. Filter self-rescuers should be provided where it is not reasonably practicable to provide self-contained self-rescuers.

Your safety assessment should detail the reasons why particular types of self-rescuer were accepted or rejected for use at the mine.

To ensure you have enough self-rescuers available, consider the testing and maintenance requirements of all units and the potential for increased numbers on site due to maintenance, turn-arounds and visitors to the mine.

Training in use of self-rescuers

Anyone who goes underground at the mine must be trained how to operate and use the self-rescuer provided to them. Topics that should be covered during training include:

  • when to use the self-rescuer
  • how and what to expect when using the self-rescuer
  • the symptoms of CO2 build-up, and
  • how to resolve faults with the self-rescuer

What to do with your emergency plan

To ensure the effectiveness of your emergency plan when you need it most:

  • keep a copy of the emergency plan at the mine for use by emergency services and for inspection on request.
  • make sure it is displayed where it can be easily accessed - contact details should be kept and displayed near phones and radios, and
  • send a copy of the emergency plan to the emergency services and government agencies who have been involved in preparing the plan.

Regularly test the emergency plan

The emergency plan must be tested every year to ensure its effectiveness.

Tests and drills with affected persons

At a minimum, you should conduct table top tests as well as drills with all affected persons, including those outside the mine, such as emergency services.

In some cases, evacuation drills will be required to examine persons’ movements, actions and response times, including contractors.

Exercise debriefing should take place to analyse the plan's effectiveness. Any identified additional controls or changes to controls should be undertaken as soon as practicable after the exercise.

Note: Evacuating persons from the site for blasting purposes does not equate to a drill.

Test specific elements

Your emergency plan should address all aspects of emergency response, including:

  • how self-rescuers are used under simulated emergency conditions (e.g. dark, dusty, smoky environments where there is time pressure to operate the self-rescuers).
  • a system to quickly locate all persons within the mine at any time
  • how you provide adequate rescue equipment
  • how you take into account shift arrangements for employees and involve contractors if they have a role in the plan
  • how you ensure persons trained in the use of rescue equipment are either on-site or available on-call
  • how effective the escape system  is as a whole by testing all relevant caches, change over stations and refill stations, and
  • opportunities for employees to practice their role in an emergency, such as
    • raising the alarm
    • identifying who to contact
    • locating and using rescue and firefighting equipment, and
    • proceeding to the emergency assembly area

Types of tests (pros and cons)

  1. Desk top exercise

    Pros

    • Stimulates group discussion of issues around a specific scenario.
    • Allows for business continuity.

    Cons

    • May not adequately test communication, site evacuations processes or equipment accessibility.
  2. Live practical exercise

    Pros

    • Tests coordination between on-site procedures and emergency services.
    • Allows for an extended test of onsite/offsite communication systems.
    • Tests capability of emergency services to response.
    • Assists with the identification of limitation/restrictions in equipment access.

    Cons

    • May not adequately test communication, site evacuations processes or equipment accessibility.
  3. Drills

    Pros

    • Allows for a site to gauge how long it will take a number of employees to react to a certain situation.
    • Allows for testing of communication systems.

    Cons

    • Cannot be used exclusively due to narrow scope.