Occupational Health and Safety Priorities for the Australian Coal Industry

Underground » Health and Safety

Published: March 00Project Number: C8025

Get ReportAuthor: John Culvenor, John Knowles, Steve Cowley | VIOSH Australia University of Ballarat

The University of Ballarat has analysed workers' compensation claims relating to the black coal mining industry in Queensland and New South Wales. This project followed an ACARP project some years earlier that examined the same issues (Mitchell & Larsson 19994).

Data from Queensland (2287 claims from 1 July 1997 to 25 March 1999) and New South Wales (13850 claims from 1 January 1996 to 31 December 1998) were analysed. Four-hundred and six (406) abstracts of research published since 1993 were also analysed. The priorities emerging from the compensation claims data were compared with the topics addressed over recent years of research in coal mining.

The analysis of compensation data showed that soft-tissue injuries that are usually thought of as being related to manual handling (strain, sprain, etc) make up a large proportion of the compensation costs in both underground and open cut mines. Traumatic injuries (fracture, bruise, laceration, etc) are also significant with the costs of these injuries contributing to between 10 and 30 percent of the total in both mine types and both states.

The costly injury types in underground mining are: overexertion (29%); slips, trips and falls (22%); and being struck by objects (20%). In open cut mining the costly injury types include: overexertion (18%); slips, trips and falls (22%); vehicle vibration (21%); and vehicle accidents (16%).

In open cut mining, injury causation mostly involves mobile plant (52%) including: dump trucks; dozers; and front-end loaders. Floor surfaces and steps and stairs (11% combined) are also commonly involved in open cut injuries. Underground accidents are more diverse with accidents involving a wide range of mobile/semi-mobile plant and the work environment itself. Powered plant is often associated with underground accidents (17%) and includes: conveyors; transporters; roof-bolters; chocks; and loaders.

The work environment itself is often involved, including: floor surfaces (18%), the rib, roof and face (11%); and coal, rocks, etc in general. Other plant is also important such as the trailing cable (3%) and ventilation equipment (2%).

In terms of research, activity World-wide over the 1990's seems to have kept pace with the 1980's with 700-800 research reports being published in both decades (see Mitchell & Larsson 1994). The topics of international literature seem to be consistent between this study period (post 1993) and the pre 1994 literature examined by Mitchell and Larsson (1994). Research about dust and respiratory issues was common pre 1994 (30%) and remains common (27%) post 1993.

To summarize recent research efforts, two-thirds (66%) of research internationally has addressed the topics of: dust and respiratory issues (27%); fire (15%); ground, wall or roof support (14%); or ventilation or air quality (10%). In contrast recent Australian research has addressed somewhat different topics. In Australia, two-thirds of recent Australian research (ACARP projects) has been concerned with the topics of: ground, wall or roof-support (25%); explosions (15%); machinery (10%); fire (7%); and management systems (7%). In both Australian and international efforts there is an absence of research about manual handling issues.

In order to ensure that occupational health and safety are addressed in a way that will reduce compensation costs, research projects must be encouraged in areas where these costs are incurred. Given that manual handling is so costly in compensation terms, encouragement of research about how to control this problem should be encouraged. However, more generally, this report recommends that an OHS Impact Statement be required of all research projects in coal mining. This requirement should cover all research, including those not specifically targeting workplace safety, so as to maximize opportunities to draw safety benefits from all projects.

A simple one-page checklist model is proposed to assist applicants with the identification of the areas of occupational health and safety that their project could influence. This will assist funding agencies in the assessment of the degree to which proposed research will address priority issues. It is recognized in this report that compensation costs are not the only parameter to consider when determining the merit of safety research and considerations outside the scope of the checklist presented will also be needed.


Health and safety, productivity and environment initiatives.

Recently Completed Projects

C25060Development Of Borehole Shear Monitoring Device For Routine Application In Coal Mine Roadways

This project outlines the development of a cost effective, routine s...

C26056Optimisation Of Low And High Pressure Longwall Hydraulic Systems

This project aimed to establish if longwalls with Hi-Set systems cou...

C27007Assessment Of Pyrite Coal Dust Induced Pneumoconiosis

There have been recent concerns regarding the re-identification of C...


Open Cut

Safety, productivity and the right to operate are priorities for open cut mine research.

Recently Completed Projects

C25031Developing Closure Criteria For River Diversions: An Alternative To Reference Sites

The use of reference sites for establishing closure criteria in area...

C25025Guidelines For Estimating Coal Measure Rock Mass Strength From Laboratory Properties - Report A Empirical Approach And Report B Synthetic Rock Mass Models

This report combined different approaches to investigate the estimat...

C27074Tyre Integrity Monitoring

Driving mine trucks with underinflated and overloaded tyres subjects...

Open Cut

Coal Preparation

Maximising throughput and yield while minimising costs and emissions.

Recently Completed Projects

C6046Optimising Coal Fragmentation For Improved Recovery

Uncontrolled fragmentation, in particular that resulting in the gene...

C25019Adaptation Of Coal Grain Analysis To Improve Flotation Yield Estimation

This project involved sampling of full-scale flotation circuits at ...

C27033Comprehensive Flotation Model Using CGA Particle Surface Composition

The aim of this project was to adapt existing particle based flotat...

Coal Preparation

Technical Market Support

Market acceptance and emphasising the advantages of Australian coals.

Recently Completed Projects

C27036Improved Understanding Of Coke Quality Using 3D Immersive Visualisation And Statistical Characterisation Of Microstructure Properties

This project carried out an explorative study into the use of a 3D v...

C27047Combustion Characteristics Of Australian Export Thermal Coal Using Advanced Imaging Techniques

During pulverised fuel combustion, coal particles are rapidly pyroly...

C25045Assessment Of In Situ High Temperature Strength Of Cokes

The research for this project was undertaken in three stages.


Technical Market Support

Mine Site Greenhouse Gas Mitigation

Mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from the production of coal.

Recently Completed Projects

C26004CFD Modelling Of Reverse Thermal Oxidisers For VAM Abatement - CFD Modelling Of Fixed-Bed RTO Devices

The project is part of a larger multi‐phase program of study a...

C27058Technological Assessment Of A Recycle Reactor For VAM Abatement

Underground coal mining emits high volumes of methane, diluted in ve...

C27008Selective Absorption Of Methane By Ionic Liquids

The connection of a ventilation air methane (VAM) abatement plant di...

Mine Site Greenhouse Gas Mitigation

Low Emission Coal Use

Step-change technologies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Recently Completed Projects

C17060BGasification Of Australian Coals

Four Australian coals were trialled in the Siemens 5 MWth pilot scale ga...

C17060AOxyfuel Technology For Carbon Capture And Storage Critical Clean Coal Technology - Interim Support

The status of oxy-fuel technology for first-generation plant is indicate...

C18007Review Of Underground Coal Gasification

This report consists of a broad review of underground coal gasification,...

Low Emission Coal Use

Mining And The Community

The relationship between mines and the local community.

Recently Completed Projects

C16027Assessing Housing And Labour Market Impacts Of Mining Developments In Bowen Basin Communities

The focus of this ACARP-funded project has been to identify a number...

C22029Understanding And Managing Cumulative Impacts Of Coal Mining And Other Land Uses In Regions With Diversified Economies

The coal industry operates in the context of competing land-uses that sh...

C23016Approval And Planning Assessment Of Black Coal Mines In NSW And Qld: A Review Of Economic Assessment Techniques

This reports on issues surrounding economic assessment and analysis ...

Mining And The Community


National Energy Research,Development & Demonstration Council (NERDDC) reports - pre 1992.

Recently Completed Projects

1609-C1609Self Heating of Spoil Piles from Open Cut Coal Mines

Self Heating of Spoil Piles from Open Cut Coal Mines

1301-C1301Stress Control Methods for Optimised Development...

Stress Control Methods for Optimised Development and Extraction Operations

0033-C1356Commissioned Report: Australian Thermal Coals...

Commissioned Report: Australian Thermal Coals - An Industry Handbook