The terms and definitions used in reference to ‘principal mining hazards’ vary across Australia.

In Western Australia new Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws and accompanying regulations came into effect on 31 March 2022, introducing a meaning for, and a list of, principal mining hazards (PMHs).

While it’s likely your risk management framework already identifies principal mining hazards, they may not be addressed as comprehensively as needed to align with current legislation.

A principal mining hazard at a mine is any activity, process, procedure, plant, structure, substance, situation, or other circumstance relating to the carrying out of mining operations at the mine that has a reasonable potential to result in multiple deaths in a single incident or a series of recurring incidents.

To identify principal mining hazards relevant to your operation, there are some areas of focus to review as outlined in regulation 612 (2):

  • Geotechnical structure instability, such as high wall failure, landslides, and cave-in.
  • The inrush of any substance. This includes flooding by fluidized materials such as water/fuel from a tank, dam failure, or groundwater breakthrough.
  • Mine shafts and winding systems. Fall and trap risks from mining shafts and other pits or trenches.
  • Roads or other areas where mobile plant operates.
  • Fire or uncontrolled explosions, such as those occurring in flammable/explosive gas atmospheres, naturally occurring gas in the orebody, and explosive dust.
  • Underground coal mining, specifically gas outbursts and spontaneous combustion.
  • A principal mining hazard identified by the mine operator for a mine under regulation 627(1).

Schedule 19 of the regulations provides a detailed look at the PMHs listed in regulation 612 (2) including specific prompts to consider.

Once hazards have been identified, adequate controls and a suitable principal mining hazard management plan (PMHMP) must be put in place. A PMHMP must set out the following:

  • The nature of the principal mining hazard to which the plan relates.
  • How the principal mining hazard relates to other hazards at the mine.
  • The analysis methods used in identifying the principal mining hazard.
  • A record of the risk assessment conducted in relation to the principal mining hazard.
  • The investigation and analysis methods used in determining the control measures to be implemented.
  • All control measures to be implemented to manage risks to health and safety associated with the principal mining hazard.
  • The arrangements in place for providing the information, training, and instruction required by regulation 39 in relation to the principal mining hazard.
  • Any design principles, engineering standards, and technical standards relied on for control measures for the principal mining hazard.
  • The reasons for adopting or rejecting all control measures considered.

The best way to establish whether a company’s existing PMHMP complies with current WA legislation is to conduct a review of the PMHMP against the WA Work Health and Safety (Mines) Regulations 2022, including, but not limited to, regulations 612, 627 & 628, and Schedule 19.

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