Avoid the site, avoid the collision

Posted November 3, 2015

Mines Inspectors_2

There was nothing tongue-in-cheek in the presentation to the recent Institute of Quarrying Australia National Conference titled: ‘Heavy vehicles only injure people when they get in the way.”

Queensland Inspector of Mines-small mine strategy, Wayne Scott, was absolutely serious.

There are on average nine reported incidents a week in Queensland  involving the interaction of heavy vehicles , light vehicles, and pedestrians. In nine years there have been three fatalities where pedestrians have been run over by heavy vehicles in this sector.

The often complicated safety systems which have been introduced have failed to deliver a proportionate improvement in the statistics, Mr Scott said.

“Those statistics have been consistent for the past 10 years despite the technical improvements, including proximity detection devices and cameras,” he said.

“When there is an incident we tend to add another level of complexity rather than asking why it occurred and if existing controls were effective. There’s an assumption we need more administrative controls.

“This has resulted from two problems that I see in managing safety in the mining industry.  Firstly we have been hi-jacked by safety professionals and theorists who develop complex safety systems and secondly we tend to copy each other.

“Copying can be good but when we jump to commonly used controls without looking at the most effective way of addressing the problem, this can be detrimental to what we are trying to achieve and that is preventing injury.

“We need to go back to the hazard or the causes of incidents to determine why people are at risk.”

The question why pedestrians and light vehicles, be they soil testers in a quarry or supervisors managing a site, needed to be in the vicinity of a heavy vehicle was put by Mr Scott to the conference.

There is a lot expected from operators of heavy machines on quarry sites said Mr Scott who went on to say they were being set up for failure.

“If you want to ensure people will not be run over, then don’t have them there,” he said. “Why do you need light vehicles on haul roads? Have a separate access road. If they can do it in mines, we can do it in quarries.”

“Testers , because they are on foot, are regularly exposed to these hazards. Schedule their visits for downtime like lunch and smoko. Supervisors driving around managing the site; do they need to be there while heavy vehicles are operating?

“If the focus is on separation rather than ensuring light vehicles and pedestrians are visible then we may have more success in reducing the number of incidents.”


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