Underreporting rife: Queensland safety report

WHILE revealing major holes in the reporting of mine injuries in Queensland, yesterday's Queensland Safety Performance and Health report also exposed some interesting trends, including a culture of underreporting incidents.

Angie Tomlinson

The review of the Queensland Mines and Quarries Annual Safety Performance and Health Report was put together by Dr David Cliff from the University of Queensland's Minerals Industry Safety and Health Centre and Professor Tony Parker, of the Institute for Health and Biomedical Innovation at Queensland University of Technology.

The report was compiled through regional meetings, individual discussions and online submissions. Input from industry was labelled disappointing by the authors - particularly from the metalliferous and quarrying sectors.

There were no attendees at the Townsville and Brisbane regional meetings, three at the Emerald meeting, five at Mackay and one person at the entire Mt Isa meeting. The majority of the attendees were from the coal sector.

"The low number of respondents to the review may indicate that the Queensland mining industry does not place great reliance on the DME [Queensland Department of Mines and Energy] annual report to assist them in managing health and safety. The major companies particularly focus on internal incident reporting and analysis processes," the report said.

The most damning finding of the report was that information for over 50% of injuries that result in a worker not being able to carry out their normal work on their next shift was not collected in any detail. The report attributed this to detailed reporting being limited to LTI and not including Disabling Injury (DI) or Restricted Work Injury (RWI).

The report went on to say the DME's annual report did not accurately reflect disability and illnesses, partly due to workers with permanent disabilities receiving redundancy or retrenchment payment rather than workers compensation.

It also questioned the accuracy of the data included in DME's Safety Performance and Health Report due to underreporting of incidents in mines.

The report said underreporting of incidents stemmed from the current method of reporting individual mine performance, presenting awards to mines that have no lost time injuries (LTI), and the form being too long and complex.

It also highlighted that there is a perception that mines will be penalised by the DME for reporting too many incidents and that some contractors and subcontractors were not reporting all the accidents and incidents they were involved in due to safety targets being a condition of contract.

This was coupled with an attitude among some sections of the mining industry that "they do not need to bother about reporting information accurately as the DME do not do anything meaningful with it".

"Mining company safety and health reports are generally mainly narratives of initiatives and programs implemented to improve performance with some statistics," the report said.

"The effort put into compiling the annual Safety Performance and Health Report is not reflected in the attention industry currently pays to the document."

Going forward, the report suggested the DME's annual report could include data on occupational hygiene exposure of workers to the various common hazards including respirable dust and silica, noise, diesel particulate matter and heat stress.

Respondents suggested that case studies and examples of best practice be included in the annual report, and the data be interpreted, rather than simply reported.

A number of respondents also requested detail on coroners' investigations and the findings and recommendations coming out of them.

The report also recommended the DME undertake regular and unannounced audits of minesites to ensure that incident and accident reporting, by both operators and contractors, is being carried out according to the regulations.

On top of this, adequate training should be carried out to ensure uniform application of the definitions relating to reporting of accidents and incidents.