Earthmoving News, Jobs & Training, Workplace Health & Safety

Mine disaster exercise drills preparing coal workers

Two underground emergency exercises at a Queensland coal mine have been hailed as a success by Resources Safety & Health Queensland (RSHQ)

Two events, known as ‘Level 1 emergency exercises’, were hosted by Anglo American’s Aquila Underground Coal Mine, located 31km southwest of Middlemount in the Bowen Basin.

The exercises were run by RSHQ along with the Queensland Mines Rescue Service and industry safety and health representatives, to give coal mine workers the chance to practise disaster scenarios so they’re prepared in the event of a real-life emergency.

In the first scenario, a load haul dump (LHD) and a special underground car called a Driftrunner collided. Both drivers were injured, and both tried to flee but one driver went missing.

In the second scenario, a LHD machine caught fire, burning the operator on his face and hands. He called his control room operator to let them know he was walking away from the incident, but then went missing.

The second scenario was particularly tricky because it affected all underground mine locations at the time.

In both scenarios, mine workers and specialised mine rescue teams had to test their mine site incident response, their ability to triage injured coal mine workers, use rescue equipment correctly, communicate effectively and in some instances self-escape.

RSHQ chief inspector of coal Jacques le Roux says Level 1 emergency exercises are vital to improving reactions and responses in real-life emergencies.

“The goal is to learn from each exercise, then share that with industry,” he says.

“In a way this is when we would welcome mistakes because it means we’ll know the areas where we can improve.

“The better the response in practice, the higher the chance we have of saving lives.”

A Level 1 exercise to be held later this year will include an inspector who specialises in open cut mines, with the goal of running the first ever above-ground Level 1 emergency exercise in 2025.

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