Qld puts the onus on operators to use proximity detection devices

THE Queensland government’s mines inspectorate has stepped back from making proximity detection devices mandatory on underground equipment, putting the onus on operators to assess the risk.
Qld puts the onus on operators to use proximity detection devices Qld puts the onus on operators to use proximity detection devices Qld puts the onus on operators to use proximity detection devices Qld puts the onus on operators to use proximity detection devices Qld puts the onus on operators to use proximity detection devices

Queensland Mine Safety and Health Commissioner Stewart Bell.

Lou Caruana

The inspectorate maintains that having a system underground that includes devices and operator education will lead to better health and safety outcomes, Queensland senior inspector of mines, electrical, Peter Herbert told a NSW conference on electrical safety.

“The Queensland inspectorate will continue to support and encourage the fitment of proximity detection systems,” he said.

“At this stage it is not envisaged that legislation will mandate the fitment of PD [proximity detection] systems. However, the principle of a reasonably achievable and acceptable level of risk will be applied.”

Queensland mine safety and health commissioner Stewart Bell has been a vocal advocate of proximity detection devices to help lower the increasing number of underground incidents in the state.

Queensland’s underground coal mines endured a horror year for injuries, with a 60% increase year-on-year in the lost-time injury frequency rate to 6.8 per million hours worked for the 12 months to June 2012.

Bell warned mining operations they must improve their safety performance as the industry continued to grow and it employed more inexperienced personnel.

Herbert said the evidence was conclusive that proximity detection systems could help protect personnel underground.

But the technology alone would not leader to lower incidents. It required active management and education of personnel as well, he said.

“No go zones will continue to be enforced,” he said.

“Substantial commitment is required to get systems operating effectively.

“Operator acceptance will be critical to success. Regular testing of the system performance will be a critical operations process.”

The industry should look for positive injury-prevention experiences using proximity detection systems and share them, Herbert said.

“End users who have conducted trials of various systems, the mines inspectorate applauds you,” he said.

Herbert suggested that mine operators analyse the vehicle-vehicle-person incidents at their sites and document all scenarios.

They should also understand the operation of the proximity detection technology and its limitations, and establish the ergonomics of the system.

“What impact will the warnings, alarms and false alarms have on the operators,” he said.

“Document any assumptions by the manufacturer and yourselves, and identify what the system will not do.

“Establish how to extract a person if jammed and the machine shut down.”

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