Industry and government have hailed a new era in mining safety in WA, with confirmation there were no deaths in the State's mines last year for the first time in more than a century.
WA Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore said the result was testament to industry-wide efforts and Government reforms, but cautioned against hubris. "The mining industry is a dangerous business, and while you aim for that (zero fatalities) I never thought we would achieve it and I am absolutely over the moon that we have," Mr Moore said yesterday.
"But you can never ever in this industry rest on your laurels and . . . you will only be able to keep it like that if everyone keeps their eyes on the ball and mines work on the basis that safety comes first."
Mining safety records began just after the Coolgardie gold rush in the 1890s, and peaked at 46 deaths shortly before World War I. They had stubbornly remained in single digits in recent years despite the increased focus on safety. It was only yesterday, when confirmation that the death of a miner, who died last month of a heart attack, was not a work-related incident, that the fatality-free year was confirmed.
Chamber of Minerals and Energy director Nicole Roocke said it was a pleasing result, but the sector would remain on guard. "The resource sector will remain vigilant and work hard to ensure everyone gets home safe and well," she said.
Mr Moore credited the introduction to WA mining in recent years of the oil and gas industry's risk- assessment model, adopted after the North Sea Piper Alpha disaster, as a major factor in the improvement. In addition, a levy on the sector had allowed Government to fend off poaching of its best safety inspectors by mining companies by boosting their pay.
The result comes as mining States Queensland and WA remain at loggerheads with the Federal Government over the adoption of national OH&S laws on mines.
Mr Moore said it would continue to work with the Commonwealth but while uniformity was an admirable goal, the current proposals moved away from mine-based risk assessment policies which were working, and would load the industry with a prescriptive "stack of regulations twice the size of the ones we already had".
He rejected suggestions from some miners that the safety push had gone too far, saying it was unacceptable some parts of industry still viewed accidents as a "part of life" in a dangerous field.
I never thought we would achieve it and I am absolutely over the moon that we have."
Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore