COVID-19 mining inspections yield encouraging results

Tuesday, 19 May, 2020

COVID-19 mining inspections yield encouraging results

The NSW Resources Regulator has published the findings of its proactive inspection program, which focused on mine operator responses to the risks of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The inspection program, which entailed 178 inspections performed across 87 different mine sites, found that mine operators generally responded quickly and appropriately to risks posed by the virus, and that overall standards were high. The report also showed that most operators had implemented appropriate controls, with only a small number of issues identified which were largely minor in nature.

“Under work health and safety laws, employers must do all that is reasonably practicable to eliminate or minimise the risks arising from COVID-19,” Chief Inspector Gavin Burns said. “Of the 87 mines inspected to date, the majority have demonstrated that they have implemented appropriate controls and are maintaining appropriate levels of supervision — with many able to demonstrate that they had comprehensive workplace controls in place.”

The regulator’s planned inspection program consistently observed that mine sites were educating the workforce on the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, and encouraging self-reporting. Mine sites are also implementing health surveillance controls and practising good hygiene, including routine cleaning of mobile plant and crib rooms. Mine sites provided resources to enable social distancing (ie, providing more transport onsite to allow workers to be 1.5 metres apart). Mine sites are also allowing flexible working from home arrangements (where appropriate) and providing supervision arrangements onsite.

“However, there were a small number of issues identified in relation to some sites not appropriately documenting their controls or completing risk assessments,” Burns said. “These resulted in some improvement notices issued — but pleasingly the program has not resulted in the issue of any prohibition notices.” The NSW Resources Regulator will continue to monitor the implementation of controls through its proactive inspection program, with mine operators reminded to remain vigilant to both COVID-19 risks and risks associated with mining hazards.

Further details on the NSW Resources Regulator’s response to COVID-19, including the program assessment templates, can be found here.

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