Resources Safety and Health Queensland is recommending coal mine operators review their incident reporting after a significant decrease in the number of High Potential Incidents (HPIs) reported by Queensland coal mines during the 2020/21 fiscal year.
A high potential incident at a coal mine is an event, or a series of events, that causes or has the potential to cause a significant adverse effect on the safety or health of a person.
The number of HPIs reported in 2020/21 was 25.7 per cent less than the previous year while the reporting frequency rate (HPIs per million work hours) also dropped by 22 per cent.
The Coal Mines Inspectorate is undertaking a project to audit mine incident reports against the HPI reporting requirements to ensure all incidents are reported to the Inspectorate.
During the past six months the Coal Mines Inspectorate has requested and received internal incident reporting data from 20 per cent of coal mines, both underground and open cut.
The remaining 80 per cent of mines will be audited in a similar manner.
An analysis of this data shows there have been incidents occurring that were not reported as HPIs, when evidence suggests they were HPIs as defined by section 17 of the Coal Mining Safety & Health Act 1999.
Some events not reported as HPIs include:
- steering mechanism failures on operating mobile equipment in surface mines
- wheels separating from light vehicles whilst travelling in surface coal mines
- falls of ground in underground mines
- braking mechanism failures on mobile equipment occurring whilst being operated in surface mines
- significant structural failures occurring on mobile equipment whilst being operated in surface mines
- flameproof enclosures compromised in underground mines
- isolation breaches that have resulted in an energy source not being positively contained
- significant strata failures in surface mines
- collision near misses in surface mines
- uncontrolled movement of mobile equipment in surface mines
- fatigue events such as microsleeps occurring when operating mobile plant in surface mines.
RSHQ is recommending that coal mine operators review their processes for reporting HPIs and implement the reporting standards adopted by high reliability organisations.
It also encourages coal mine workers to make confidential complaints concerning HPIs not reported, enabling the Inspectorate to investigate such under-reporting and take appropriate action.