Open Cut » Health and Safety
Everyone in the Australian coal mining industry will probably recognise a Pike River victim or be reminded of a work mate, friend, son or brother. Pike River, New Zealand was another avoidable coal mining catastrophe. Like all catastrophes there are many lessons to learn, one of which was the total failure of the mine's risk management systems. This NZ mine had developed most of the documents you would find at an Australian coal mine. However, the quality was lacking. Risk assessments were incomplete. Important controls were not identified, put in place and managed. The risk of an underground explosion was recognised and, in some cases, seen by individuals as so unacceptable that they left the mine before the event. Events such as Pike River, NZ as well as the ongoing fatality events in Australian mining indicate that there is still a need for improvement.
In April 2015 the International Council of Mining and Metals (ICMM) published a new guide on Health and Safety Critical Control Management (ICMM, 2015). The guide provides a process for identifying, optimising and effectively managing the 'critical few' controls for the highest consequence potential unwanted events in mining and minerals processing, such as an underground explosion. Critical Control Management (CCM) is a progression in current risk management practices, not a revolutionary change. Current risk assessment methods are still useful but CCM adds aspects that help focus and more effectively manage. For the last decade the Australian coal mining industry has been recognising that acceptable risk is related to the adequacy and effectiveness of controls. CCM builds on that realisation. The objective of CCM is to focus the business and site on effective management of carefully selected Critical Controls for the highest priority unwanted events.
Several global mining companies are currently applying this or a similar method to a list of their highest priority health, safety and environment concerns, often called MUEs or material unwanted events. Members of ICMM that are yet to embark on this approach see its potential benefits and are committed to moving in this direction.
The new ICMM CCM guide was designed to assist with this new complementary approach by providing an image of the process and its important outcomes including effective Critical Control implementation, assessment of effectiveness and verification.
This ACARP project examined the current status of the new CCM process in the Australian coal mining industry, based on a possible goal of having all mines applying CCM by 2020.
Information to establish the magnitude of change, and the potentially helpful initiatives that can assist with this change, was gathered by industry survey, and expanded based on a set of six overseas interviews with major mining companies involved in CCM.
The survey confirmed that eleven of the twelve surveyed ACARP member companies are either currently implementing CCM or intend to do so in the future. One company was unsure. Of the five ACARP member companies that are currently progressing with CCM, virtually all are still in the initiative development phase. More specific survey results can be overviewed using the ICMM CCM process model.
Most of the current implementers say that their systematic verification and reporting is still 'in progress' suggesting some issues in implementation. Imbedding effective verification and reporting is essential to ensuring Critical Controls are in place with required functional reliability.
Finally, incident investigation related to MUEs and the Critical Controls varies greatly among the current implementers so it is likely that the related learning is limited.
Recognise that CCM may be a major change for the company or site
CCM is usually a major step change for a mining company or site. It is important to understand the required change and decide if preparation of a suitable foundation is required before embarking on CCM. Once the nature of the CCM process is understood, including the essential leadership involvement, it is recommended that the company undertake a review of their readiness to adopt CCM.
The ICMM CCM Guide includes summary decriptors for each of the above five steps in its' Appendices. ICMM draft work for the published Guide also included a more detailed journey analysis tool. This ACARP report provides the ICMM full analysis tool, aligned with the ICMM summary in the published Guide, in the Attachments that should also help the company or site identify readiness for CCM.
Moving the Australian coal mining industry to CCM by 2020 will require careful planning. As a result of the survey and included discussion about requirements, the following specific recommendations for the change are suggested. The list is more detailed in the Recommendations section of the full report.
1. Leadership and communication: Establish a supported and funded industry working group through the MCA to develop and operate a CCM communication initiative.
2. Organisational risk culture: Make the journey model in this report available to help companies and mines define their journey plan, possibly through mining industry associations and councils.
3. Education and training: Provide education and training in CCM with short 'G3' and 'G2' conversion or update courses and by updating 'G3', 'G2' and 'S1, 2 and 3' qualification levels.
4. Knowledge and sharing: Improve the existing RISKGATE on-line coal industry resource to support the move to CCM.
5. Knowledge and sharing: Develop conceptual design, feasibility study for industry knowledge sharing resource
6. Stakeholders: Look for opportunities to include the Regulators in the development of CCM.
7. Research and Education: Support further research into the development of sharing systems that address the overriding concern that sharing data or information about events may lead to legal exposures.
8. Research and Education: Support further research into the development of practical methods of establishing the effectiveness of individual controls, control sets for causes or consequences and the overall adequacy of controls to reduce the risk of an unwanted event.
9. Research and Education: Support the development of methods of verifying Critical Controls that are Acts, so that they can be effectively managed and their reliability established.