WA mine safety defies study trend

An Edith Cowan University (ECU) study has revealed that Western Australia’s mining industry has improved its safety outcomes as it has expanded.

The study – An investigation of the influence of economic cycles on safety performance in Western Australia – determined that all industries outside of mining have suffered an increase in workplace industry as Western Australia’s economy has improved.

It involved the analysis of 577,778 occupational injuries in Western Australia between 2003 and 2019.

ECU PhD candidate Tayna Jenke said while the findings are concerning, the mining industry is in a good place.

“It was quite interesting to find that a typically high-risk industry actually improved safety,” she said.

“This could be because mining has very high safety standards and employee training programs due to the high-risk nature of the work.

“Western Australia’s mining industry is also dominated by large global companies with the resources, infrastructure and organisational resilience to withstand fluctuating economic conditions.”

Jenke found the most severe increase in injuries came from the manufacturing industry, with one per cent growth in gross state product (GSP) causing a 0.2 per cent increase in injuries.

Data from Western Australia’s Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) revealed the state’s resource sector delivered $174 billion in sales during 2020, compared with the previous record of $173 billion in 2019-20.

The DMIRS has also sought feedback from the industry on its proposed amendments to Western Australia’s Mining Act 1978.

The amendments will improve the application and assessment process of environmental approvals to allow more projects to be given the green light.

“Through the introduction of a low impact notification for the automated authorisation of low impact activities and the introduction of a single approvals statement for mining operations, the department hopes to modernise the regulatory framework and further reinforce a risk and outcomes based approach to regulation,” Caple said.

“This approach will also allow the department to redirect its focus to higher risk matters.”

The Streamlining (Mining Amendment) Bill 2021 is available for public comment until June 25, 2021.

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