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Coal Inspectorate | Alert | No.417 V 1 | 20 September 2022

Emergency Response Capability

What happened?

Operations were recently suspended at an underground coal mine in Queensland upon discovery that the mine was not compliant with legislation relating to the required number of certified Emergency Response Team (ERT) members available to respond to a potential emergency situation. Coal mine operators and Site Senior Executives (SSEs) should be aware that any future breaches of legislative requirements will result in the Inspectorate taking immediate compliance action.

How did it happen?

Earlier this year, the Queensland Mines Inspectorate requested evidence of the mine’s compliance with Section 173 of the Coal Mining Safety and Health Regulation 2017. Specifically, that the mine had at least the required number of persons certified by an accredited corporation as competent in using self-contained breathing apparatus and emergency rescue procedures. 

The mine’s SSE acknowledged non-compliance to legislative requirements and committed to taking the required remedial action by a particular date. A periodical report by Queensland Mines Rescue revealed that remedial action had not been actioned and this resulted in the Inspectorate directing the mine to suspend mining operations.

Key issues

  • There were periods of several weeks where coal mine workers were performing duties without the required number of certified Emergency Response Team (ERT) members available to respond to a potential emergency situation.
  • The mine failed to meet its obligations under:
    • section 221 of the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999 – requirements regarding mines rescue capabilities for an underground coal mine in Queensland.
    • sections 223 - 225 of the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999 - obligations of coal mine operators and users.
    • section 226 of the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999 - mine not to be used if sections 223–225 contravened.

Recommendations

All SSEs and operators should:

  • comply with section 173 of the Coal Mining Safety and Health Regulation 2017 to ensure that adequate rescue facilities and trained ERT members are available.
  • never use the mine for mining without the required number of certified ERT members available to respond to a potential emergency situation.
  • build redundancy into certified ERT member numbers to ensure there are sufficiently trained persons to cover duties which might be lost due to turnover or scheduling issues.

Investigations are ongoing and further information may be published as it becomes available. The information in this publication is what is known at the time of writing.

We issue Safety Notices to draw attention to the occurrence of a serious incident, raise awareness of risks, and prompt assessment of your existing controls.

References and further information

Authorised by Shaun Dobson - Chief Inspector – Coal

Contact: Jacques Le Roux, A/Regional Inspector of Mines , 0457 107 014

Issued by Resources Safety & Health Queensland

Safety: This information is issued to promote safety through experience. It is not to be taken as a statement of law and must not be construed to waive or modify any legal obligation.
Placement: Place this announcement on noticeboards and ensure all relevant people in your organisation receive a copy, understand the content, findings and recommendations as applicable to their operation. SSEs should validate that recommendations have been implemented.