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Narrow escape for fatigued truck driver

A DUMP truck driver was lucky to escape with minor injuries when she fell asleep at the wheel and drove her truck into the tray of a loaded truck that penetrated the cabin in the collision at a Queensland coal mine this month.

Lou Caruana
Narrow escape for fatigued truck driver

The Queensland mines inspectorate is urging site management to regularly review the mine's fatigue-management process to identify changes such as technology to manage fatigue or collision avoidance to prevent similar accidents.

The incident also draws attention to the need for proximity detection technology to avoid collisions – a strategy being promoted by Queensland mine safety and health commissioner Stewart Bell.

Despite industry-wide awareness, proximity detection technology had not been fitted to the trucks at the mine.

The rear dump truck operator had been on the second night shift of a seven-shift roster and fell asleep while driving up a pit ramp at 2.55am.

She drove her truck into the tray of a loaded rear dump truck that was waiting to enter the main haul road at a stop sign at the top of the ramp.

The Queensland mines inspectorate identified two hazards: fatigue and vehicle design.

“The vehicle’s design meant that the rear of the tray on the lead vehicle aligned with the operator’s cabin on the following vehicle,” it said.

“The investigation found the mine was trialling retina screening to detect fatigue but with limited success at that point.

“The mine's ‘Fitness for Work’ assessment criteria for personal fatigue was limited and was scheduled for its five-year review.”

The investigation noted mine traffic rules required a travelling distance of 50m between trucks.

Road design was not considered by the investigation but it noted that required audits and inspections by design engineers had not occurred.

Mine management and workers should also consider the control of fatigue and the impact of extended rosters, the mines inspectorate said.

In March Bell told the Collision Avoidance in Mining 2012 conference he was prepared to make collision avoidance and proximity detection technology mandatory across all surface and underground mines in the state.

While he expected the Queensland mining industry to voluntarily adopt its use, he signalled that the government was serious about getting the industry to use the devices to secure collision-free minesites.

“The use of large vehicles and automated heavy machinery at minesites is increasing and the risk to human operators is significant,” Bell said.

“We are committed to the goal that every mine worker goes home safe and healthy at the end of every shift.

“At the moment, there are too many vehicle-related incidents and accidents on minesites.

“There is a serious need for sophisticated collision avoidance technologies to be used in all mining operations to improve safety and reduce the potential risks to workers.”

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