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Safety Information

Mining is commonly associated to being an unsafe or hazardous working environment.

Working in mining, you will notice that the safety systems, procedures and standards are more involved with general working activities as compared to many industries.

There is a large variety of resources and tools used in mining companies for safety, some of these systems may / will include:

  • Mining legislation / rules
  • Basic risk management
  • Job risk analysis
  • Standard operating procedures
  • Safety training systems
  • Safety briefs
  • Safety discussions and meetings
  • Incident reporting systems
  • Fit for work systems (e.g. random drug and alcohol testing)
  • Fatigue management systems
  • Dedicated safety teams / department
  • Workforce safety representatives
  • Mines rescue teams
  • Onsite medical professionals
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Site and area specific inductions and training

Managing risk and keeping the work environment safe in a mine however is not controlled purely by paperwork - it is essential that all employees in the mining industry have a safe attitude and are willing to follow these systems to ensure a safe working environment for all workers.

For students interested in working in mine surveying, you should have the following safety attributes:

  • Ability to follow safety system directions (safety adherence).
  • Safe working attitude.
  • Nil risk-taking behavioural characteristics.
  • Willingness to wear PPE (personal protective equipment).
  • Good driving skills and vehicle safety and limitation awareness.
  • Fitness suitable for carrying equipment over rough or steep terrain.
  • Interest in maintaining good health.
  • Sunburn and dehydration awareness.

It is important to remember that surveyors also play a role in safety during the mining process. For example:

  • Ensuring that design batters are achieved during excavations will increase confidence of wall stability.
  • Setting out old underground work limits in open cut mining may prevent risk of cave-ins.
  • Providing highwall survey information may assist geotechnical engineers in determining the safety or stability of the wall.
  • Maintaining accurate plans for underground mining may also help people stay alive. Surveyors must be reliable and provide accurate plans or design set-outs to ensure safe work can commence.
  • Accident investigation surveys to help determine causes of accidents using geospatial data.

Accurately locating hazards such as flooded tunnels or old underground workings could save lives. However, failing to locate such hazards when plans are available could lead to injuries, death, fines or prison sentences. Hence, reinforcing the requirement to work accurately and safely as a mine surveyor.

Survey Case Study

It is recommended that anyone with interest in mine surveying reviews case studies for examples of problems and potential liability issues that may occur in the role. The Gretley Coal Mine Tragedy in 1996 is a good example of the liability of surveyors in mining and how they may be affected in tragic events.

Summary of the case:

November 14, 1996, miners at the Gretley Colliery near Newcastle (NSW) mined into the old workings of an abandoned mine. The old workings had been flooded and therefore caused an inrush of water into the new workings causing the death of four miners.

This disaster was a case of incorrectly positioned map data for the old workings, which had been provided by the NSW Department of Mineral Resources several years earlier. The plans showed the old workings 100 metres further away from the new tunnelling operation than they actually were. As these plans were used by the mine to plan their new workings, they did not realise how close they were mining to the old flooded tunnels. The surveyor at the time the plans were issued had assumed they were accurate, however a new surveyor around the time of the disaster was the one who certified them assuming their accuracy based on the confidence in the plans by previous surveyors and managers. Amongst all the fines issued out of the disaster, the surveyor was fined $30,000.

Some points attributing to the surveyor's fine include:

A surveyor approaching the old plan in respect of the Young Wallsend Colliery, therefore, should have taken account of the following:

  • First, it was not the original mine plan, but a copy.
  • Secondly, there was no plan of abandonment.
  • Thirdly, it was an old plan, not signed, not certified, and drawn at a time when it may or may not have been prepared by someone with qualifications or experience in surveying.
  • Fourthly, there were no survey books from which the plan might be verified.
  • Fifthly, nothing was known of the history of surveying at the mine.
  • Sixthly, there were puzzling and anomalous features in both the black and red workings.
  • Finally, there was nothing on the plan to indicate that it was up to date.

Another interesting point regarding surveying from the case:

What significance should attach to the certification of accuracy by a mine surveyor? There was a divergence of views. Some witnesses, including mine managers and surveyors, claimed that they were entitled to accept without investigation all information on a certified plan, so long as the surveyor had not signified that he was in doubt about such information.

No doubt it saves time, and is convenient, to assume that a certified plan is accurate in every detail. However, it is patently less safe to proceed upon the basis of assumption, than upon the basis of an examination and verification of information which is to be relied upon. The Court notes that above ground surveyors, where much less is at stake, do not proceed upon the basis of assumption. Rather, they seek to verify even plans which are certified.

(Source: "Report of a formal investigation under Section 98 of the Coal Mines Regulation Act 1982" by his Honour Acting Judge J.H. Staunton)

A reflection on the case, "The Gretley Coal Mine Disaster: Reflections on the Finding that Mine Managers were to Blame" by Andrew Hopkins, also provides a good overview of the case.
Thing to consider:

Surveying in general is a potentially highly liable occupation. You are responsible for producing accurate plans, observations, assumptions and geospatial analysis and advice at all times, and it is impossible to predict when a disaster might occur as a result of your daily work activities. This should reiterate the fact that being involved in the surveying profession, means being a reliable, accurate, safety conscious worker with attention to detail at all times.