Industry Safety Bulletin, News

Loader’s close call highlights risks of working near voids


A Queensland regulator is calling for greater caution and improved training for personnel after a loader operator drove into a stope void.

The incident occurred at an underground metalliferous mine, when a loader and its operator fell into a stope void from a tipping point.

It is understood that the operator was attempting to place a fabricated steel stop log near the open edge of the stope in preparation for backfilling works. While the investigation is in its infancy, Resources Safety and Health Queensland (RSHQ) has suggested that the operator drove beyond a safe operating area into the open stope, lost control, and became stuck.

Fortunately, the loader operator was rescued without injury.

“Stope voids without adequate edge protection can lead to serious harm or death,” RSHQ said.

While this particular incident is still under investigations, RSHQ released a list of factors that may contribute to incidents of this nature, including:

  • the manoeuvrability of machinery and operator’s visibility
  • inadequate training or hazard awareness for persons involved
  • the appropriateness of machinery for the activity
  • signage/markup.

The regulator suggested that risk assessments should consider the appropriateness of machinery being used, including whether its manoeuvrability is appropriate for the task and conditions, and does not limit an operator’s visibility in the circumstances.

Fatal incidents involving voids have occurred in the past. In 2009, a loader operator fell into a bench stope void during backfill operations. The loader fell 20m, and the operator tragically lost his life.

In light of incidents past and present, RSHQ stressed the importance of training personnel working around vertical edges, such as stopes, as well as ensuring the quality of this training.

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