Qld miners being shocked, burned, losing fingertips
QUEENSLAND mine workers are being burned, shocked and even losing the tops of their fingers, despite safety improving overall in the industry.
The state's Department of Mines released its annual safety and health report in late November, covering the 12 months to mid-2014.
The death of two Queensland workers made it a particularly gloomy year for industry safety.
Electrician Paul McGuire, 34, was killed on May 6 at Anglo American's Grasstree Mine near Middlemount in Central Queensland.
A fall in oxygen levels left him unable to breathe at the underground site.
Six weeks later, Brett Michael Kelly, 34, was killed after falling down an "ore pass", a type of mine shaft at a Glencore-owned copper mine in Mt Isa.
The two Queensland workers make up some of the 16 killed nationally on mine sites during the same period.
As of mid-2013, there were more than 40,000 workers in the industry although that figure has likely fallen as companies respond to a lacklustre international market.
For Queensland coal mines, rates of "high potential incidents" or HPIs -- better understood as dangerous close calls -- have fallen from the year before
Of the 1303 near-misses at above-ground coal mines in the most recent financial year, 25% or about 325 related to fire. The second most dangerous risk for workers was the "use of explosives".
Workers underground had 423 serious near-misses in the same period, but 45.4% of those - or 190 - related to electrical shocks or risks.
Potentially deadly near-misses increased per 1000 workers for the year, although it may suggest workers were more diligent in their reporting.
The number of disabling injuries and time lost because of injuries fell in the 2013-14 period.
There were 38 "permanent incapacities" reported on Queensland mine sites and quarries for the year, including mental illness, sprains, strains, back and knee injuries.
These included five "traumatic amputations".
One worker lost the top of their left index finger, another lost his right index finger down to his second knuckle.
In separate incidents, three workers lost the tips of their left thumb, ring finger and one left finger.
Back injuries remain the most common injury on mining and quarry sites.
The industry paid out a total of 1647 workers' compensation claims in the 12 months, worth $15 million.
Queensland's Acting Commissioner for Mine Safety and Health Paul Harrison said with seven of those dead being contractors, more needed to be done to protect them.
In the past 13 years, contractors made up two-thirds of all mine site deaths.
Mr Harrison said proper training, competent workers and better working knowledge may have prevented some of those 16 deaths, the highest number "in recent years".
He said in the report while it was "heartening" that Queensland was considered to have one of the safest industries in the world, more could always be done.
BAD DAY AT THE OFFICE
The report also gives an insight into how dangerous the heavy industry is in Queensland, despite the state's safety record considered among the world's best.
• A Caterpillar 773B "rock truck" - which stands 4m tall and weighing up to 92 tonne fully loaded - slipped 10m down a wall, flipping over backwards and landing upside down.
"The operator suffered a crush fracture to the vertebra and soft tissue damage to the neck and back".
• A Caterpillar D6 Dozer - weighing 19 tonnes - landed in waste dam after a wall crumbled.
"The dozer sank and the operator had to swim to shore".
• A fuel truck was left safely parked after a tyre went flat. When the driver returned 75 minutes later, she found the tyre was on fire.
• A Cat 980G loader (weighing 30 tonnes) collided with a Cat 769C truck (weighing up to 67 tonnes fully loaded) coming the other way.