Optimising the Collection of Information for Effective Use in the Event of an Emergency at an Underground Coal Mine

Underground » Health and Safety

Published: July 09Project Number: C17008

Get ReportAuthor: David Cliff | Minerals Industry Safety and Health Centre, University of Queensland

The aim of this project was to optimise the information collection and reporting processes used in emergencies in underground coal mines to ensure rapid and effective response, minimising the risk to life.  This was to be achieved through evaluating the current emergency management systems at mines, identifying good practice and also areas that needed improvement.


Ineffective and time consuming information collection, display and analysis continue to be major problems identified in the level one emergency preparedness exercises run each year in Queensland underground coal mines.  The events in the USA over recent times at Sago, Aracoma and Darby mines also bear testament to this problem.  


The areas of focus for the new project were to be on three key areas: the control room, senior mine official on site and the incident management area.  The control room in particular is a key area where accurate information is required during an incident especially in the early stages until a senior mine official can take charge.  The control room remains the first point of contact during an incident for most personnel.  Speedy evacuation and in seam response is predicated upon knowing what is happening and where everyone is.


This project aimed to improve the quality of information collection, analysis and dissemination at underground coal mines, the reduction in time taken to acquire the information and make decisions, and the associated improvement in emergency response capacity.


A number of mines in NSW and Queensland were visited and their emergency management systems were analysed.  In Queensland this was undertaken as part of the author's involvement in the Level One Emergency Response Exercises.


A series of twenty recommendations for further action have been compiled and are included in the report.


The main findings of this project were:

· At most mines the Emergency Management System was a paper document that had not been properly tested;

· Most mines had no idea what information would be necessary in an emergency particularly what would be required to ensure rapid re-entry for rescue purposes.  There is an urgent need to define the minimum information requirements;

· There is a need to define an industry wide competency for Control Room Operators; and

· Mines need to significantly increase the training carried out in emergency preparedness and response especially in the management of incidents.



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