WA mining companies have a responsibility to their workers to ensure they are adequately trained and protected against mining safety risks. Even so, workers need to be aware of the main safety risks in the industry and how to actively avoid them.
Mining Safety Risks
Working in the mines has many rewards – generous compensation, flexible rosters, and the opportunity to travel to areas of Australia you may have never discovered.
However, in comparison to the average office job, the work environment is considered a higher risk.
The most common mining safety risks to worker health include:
Heat stress or thermal stress is a serious risk on mine sites, particularly for WA mining companies operating in outback Australia. Heat stress can be an issue in outdoor environments and closed-in spaces such as workshops.
To mitigate risk, personal protective equipment (PPE) is required for all workers. This may include breathable yet protective clothing or systems such as personal cooling vests.
Ensure that your employers give you the proper training to identify symptoms of heat stroke and stress and continually monitor your health based on these guidelines.
Sun exposure has both short and long-term risks. If not adequately protected, UV rays can cause irreparable damage to your skin and eyes. Ensure your workplace provides the proper protective gear, including sunscreen and artificial shade structures, to mitigate risk.
Casual speeding is the biggest cause of deaths and serious injuries on WA roads, with most speeding fatalities occurring at no more than 10km/h over the speed limit. Saving Lives on Country Roads encourages drivers to challenge the everyday excuses used to justify unsafe behaviour on the road. More than 70 per cent of fatal crashes on country roads involve country residents. ‘Don’t trust your tired self’ focuses on drivers before they get behind the wheel, helping to reduce the number of fatigue-related crashes.
Driver fatigue is one of the top three contributors to the road toll. Research shows that fatigue can be as dangerous as other road safety issues, such as drink driving. But unlike drink driving, there are no laws regulating driver fatigue. Sleepiness contributes to approximately 1 in 5 fatal and serious road accidents. When we are feeling sleepy, for example after a night shift, driving is one of the most dangerous things we can do.
Sleepiness reduces alertness, slows reaction times, and increases the likelihood of being involved in an accident. Sleep-related vehicle accidents (SRVAs) are more likely to result in serious injury, because they tend to occur at high speed, and there is limited braking or avoidance action.
Exposure to loud noise over a long period can affect your hearing, sleep and concentration. Damage to your eardrums often builds slowly over time, so you must be vigilant. Always wear protective gear such as earplugs and earmuffs when working with loud machinery to minimise risk.
Working with chemicals can be safe if employees are adequately trained. The risk lies in inexperience and when employers fail to meet basic safety standards. In Australia, regulations are very strict to mitigate risk – spaces containing chemicals should be adequately ventilated, and workers engaging with chemicals should undergo comprehensive drills and training. If you feel unsure at any time as a worker, do not hesitate to talk to your employer.
To search for jobs in the mines currently available at WA mining companies, click here.