How to identify major mining hazards

This is step 1 in conducting a safety assessment at a prescribed mine and will inform each of the subsequent steps.

Ways to approach hazard identification

Operators of prescribed mines are recommended to do the following:

  • Convene a workshop involving Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) and employees with expertise and/or experience of working in proximity to the mining hazards under assessment.
  • Review the list of mining hazards in Regulation 400 (see below).
  • Identify and document any hazards that could, or do exist at the mine.
  • Identify and document which of these hazards has the potential to cause a major mining hazard (MMH) event, which is an event that could cause, or has significant risk of causing, more than one fatality).

Mining hazards listed in Regulation 400

A mining hazard is any activity, procedure, plant, process, substance, situation or other circumstance that could pose a risk to health and safety in relation to:

  • ground or strata failure, including ground control, slope stability, rock falls, rock bursts and susceptibility to seismic activity
  • inundation or inrush of any substance
  • mine shafts and winding operations
  • mining plant, including mobile plant and remote control equipment
  • heavy transport equipment
  • mine fire or explosions
  • gas outbursts
  • loss of ventilation
  • air quality including dust or other airborne contaminants
  • radiation from rock strata or other sources
  • proximity to dangerous openings
  • tailing dams
  • exposure to sodium cyanide and its reaction products, or
  • any other matter determined by WorkSafe (not including a major incident hazard)

Required documentation

Include all hazards that could cause a MMH event

Hazards with the potential to cause more than one fatality, which would be an MMH event, must be documented. Be aware these may be individual hazards or hazards occurring in combination so that together they might cause an MMH event.

Describe the nature of the hazard

Ensure you describe how the MMH event could lead to multiple fatalities and, where relevant, identify the areas of the mine in which the event could occur and under what conditions the hazard is present.

Example: an external bushfire could release toxic smoke into the mine (an MMH event) resulting in fatalities due to toxic exposure, or burn into the mine creating a mine fire (also an MMH event) and result in fatalities due to burn injuries or smoke inhalation.

Avoid screening out

When identifying major mining hazards, do not assume existing control measures will work.

Dismissing a potential hazard because you assume a control measure will work (e.g. the alarm will sound, or the roof support will hold up the ground) is known as 'screening out' hazards or scenarios.

The challenge with this exercise is to think of worst case scenarios in which all control measures fail, no matter how rare or unlikely the event.