10 May, 2011
Mine safety audit reveals no major safety failures
An independent audit of the safety of New Zealand’s underground coal mines has found that while some improvements can be made there is no evidence that a dangerous situation is imminent at any of the four mines, says Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson.
The audit was ordered by Cabinet following the Pike River mine explosions which killed 29 miners in November last year. Four mines were audited – Huntly East, Spring Creek, Roa and Burke’s Creek.
Ms Wilkinson says the auditors’ findings come with a recommendation that the mine owners should enhance systems for identifying and mitigating hazards in each of the mines.
The auditors found that these systems in the two smaller mines (Roa and Burke’s Creek) may not reach a level where they are fully compliant with the Health and Safety in Employment Act.
“The Pike River disaster shook the nation and it was important we were assured that other mines were not at risk of facing a similar tragedy,” Ms Wilkinson says.
“Employers have a duty to ensure the safety of their staff and that they meet the requirements of the HSE Act.
“The Department has already begun working with the mines to ensure they act on the recommendations.
“The auditors’ recommendations do not indicate that the mines are being operated in an unsafe manner. However, underground coal mining is inherently dangerous and the hazards cannot be entirely eliminated, so systems and processes to minimise harm must be in place.”
New Zealand legislation requires the development of systems for identifying and managing hazards. This requirement is in the context of the Act’s broader requirement that “all practicable steps” are taken to ensure the safety of workers.
“An audit of this type provides an additional and higher level of assurance than can be achieved by conducting an onsite inspection which focuses only on whether the practices observed are safe,” Ms Wilkinson says.
“So while it is reassuring that there are no dangerous situations imminent at the mines, the improvements recommended are welcomed by the Government.”
The auditors’ report will be provided to the Royal Commission of Inquiry.
Full copies can be found at: http://www.dol.govt.nz/News/Media/pikeriver/audit/index.asp
Link to Keeping Work Safe: http://www.dol.govt.nz/publications/research/keeping-work-safe/index.asp
Link to Pike River webpage: http://www.dol.govt.nz/News/Media/pikeriver/index.asp