Deaths prompt Qld inspectorate guidelines

SAFE management of onsite mine accommodation is a concern following a series of recent incidents including the death of two workers in their rooms and another who refused medical treatment only to later fatally succumb to severe bacterial infection.
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Blair Price

The Queensland Mines Inspectorate has set guidelines for managing workers under fly-in, fly-out circumstances in a safety alert that also focuses on the duty-of-care circumstances involved.

According to the inspectorate, the worker who died in his room had failed to turn up for his night shift but it was thought he was doing different work at the time.

His death came to light when a colleague went to the worker’s room during the morning of the next day and found he had died at some point after dressing to leave for the night shift.

The second death came from a worker who had completed two night shifts of his roster and then reported sick to the first aid room.

The man declined an offer to be taken to a doctor.

Several hours later he was in worse shape and asked to be taken to hospital where he died of a severe bacterial infection two days later.

In another case a contract maintenance worker who was ill during his rostered break managed to return to work and finish his first shift but did not make it to the second.

After failing to report to the shift a supervisor, with assistance from staff at the off-site camp, found the maintenance worker deceased in his room.

Another serious incident had local police used to good effect.

In accordance with mine procedure the police were called in to check a worker’s accommodation after he failed to show for a shift.

The worker was injured but police managed to reduce the severity of those injuries.

“These, and other incidents, serve as a reminder of the obligations of mine operators and contractors to ensure the safety and health of their workers who reside, between shifts, in accommodation provided by the mine operator or contractor,” the inspectorate said.

The inspectorate outlined the factors that mines must consider when reviewing systems and practices and said if a worker known to be in the camp failed to turn up for a shift, a procedure should be in place to check on the person’s whereabouts and wellbeing at any time of the shift.

The government organisation said workers should be examined as soon as possible by a paramedic, nurse or other health care provider as soon as they become ill.

The medical examination can then form the basis of a decision on whether sick workers should remain onsite or be relocated for extra assistance, with the inspectorate adding that affected workers should never be allowed to drive.

In the situation where a sick worker is deemed safe to remain in onsite accommodation, the inspectorate said a reliable procedure must be in place to ensure appropriate staff can check upon the worker’s health at regular intervals day and night.

Workers who need to go to hospital or elsewhere for treatment are to be accompanied by an appropriate person during the journey as another aspect of duty-of-care requirements.