New South Wales Resources Regulator executive director Garvin Burns told Australia's Mining Monthly that a proper risk-based solution would most likely use a combination of technologies and operator aids, in consideration of many factors, including the design, size and type of equipment, how the equipment was operated and utilised, and the operating environment.
"The aim of the current priority assessment program is to establish whether mine operators in the coal industry are adopting an appropriately rigorous, risk-based approach in determining whether to implement collision avoidance and proximity systems," he said.
"The concern is not necessarily that there has been an increase in the number of incidents, it is that incidents continue to occur despite the progressive introduction of new technology, improved operator aids, improved training and fatigue management processes."
The regulator has carried out several investigations into serious or potentially serious incidents in the past two years involving equipment collisions or workers being struck by moving equipment in both surface and underground mines.
In some of these investigations it was identified that well-established and understood controls were implemented yet inexplicably failed, and that a collision avoidance or proximity detection system might have served as a "last chance" barrier that could have prevented the incident.
"The Resources Regulator reviews incident data constantly, looking for emerging trends or patterns, and publishes incident data from NSW mines in periodical reports and other publications," Burns said.
He said mine operators had a duty to reduce or eliminate risk, so far as was reasonably practicable, and apply the hierarchy of controls to manage risk.
There is also a need to ensure risk minimisation is part of the culture within mine sites.
"The term ‘reasonably practicable' is well-defined in section 18 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and it is the position of the Resources Regulator that for many mine operators, the implementation of collision avoidance systems may be considered reasonably practicable," Burns said.