Critical year for risk management center

THIS is the fourth year the Minerals Industry Safety and Health Centre (MISHC) has been operating. It is also the year in which the future of the Brisbane-based centre must be defined. Jim Joy, MISHC director and professor of mining safety, spoke to ILN about the centre’s future.

Staff Reporter

Formed in 1998, the original goal of the centre was to provide the minerals industry with university and continuing education in safety and risk management. MISHC received original financial support from a group of core sponsors including Rio Tinto, BHP, WMC, QNI and Anglo Coal, for a five-year period ending in 2002. The centre’s future lies either in becoming a permanently funded industry institute or deriving funding from applied research and services to the minerals industry.


In the three-and-a-half years since the inception of MISHC in 1998 much has been achieved. Significant education resources have been developed on risk management. In particular, MISHC has developed the content for the AQF6 risk management course, based on competency-based packages (CULPS). Development of the so-called AQF6 requirements grew out of the Moura disaster and is part of the move to replace mine manager’s tickets with competency-based education.


This module, as well as modules for areas such as ventilation, gas drainage and spontaneous combustion, will also become part of the Mine Manager’s Competency (AQF6) program (see article on what this issue means to current mine managers, to be published in May). They will probably also form the basis of certain mining engineering courses at the University of Queensland and the University of New South Wales.


“Once the development and transfers are completed the Australian minerals industry should have a world class, quality, cross industry education mechanism for safety, health and risk management,” Joy said.


Work has also begun on creating a national mining guidelines database for all mining sectors, with the involvement of inspectorates across the country.


“Chief inspectors in NSW, Queensland and WA are supportive and at this early stage work is focused on getting agreement on how to proceed with the development of the guidelines,” Joy said.


Another important aspect of the MISHC work is to help develop a Lessons Learned database, in conjunction with the Minerals Council of Australia. As Joy pointed out, the current system of safety alerts generated around ‘reportable’ incidents is not captured, trended or analysed in any way.


With the lessons-learned database, “we want to capture actual major consequence, but mostly potential major consequence information”, Joy said. “We want it to include human error, technical issues as well as management systems, which will involve gathering better quality information. To do that we have to get either the mine to report better or get the inspector who investigates to report better. It is likely that someone will also have to interpret that information.”


Virtual reality technology will be used to support the Lessons Learned database, Joy said. This will allow a mine to visualise the events leading up to an incident, from the safety of a computer screen. Technology such as this will help mines with training and development of systems to improve risk management.


MISHC has also just employed Dr David Cliff in the role of research director.


See the related story on Cliff's appointment.