The need for comprehensive traffic management plans in the mining industry has been placed in the spotlight following a number of high-profile incidents in New South Wales mines.

Last year, 24 Australian workers died in vehicle incidents not on public roads, according to Safe Work Australia. These accidents often occurred in locations where traffic management plans were in place, yet workers either failed to comply with occupational health and safety procedures, or environmental issues were not taken into account when forming a traffic management plan.

This has highlighted the need for all employees to be made aware of traffic management requirements and processes, to make sure correct policies are in place and are being followed. To improve the safety of your employees, it is important to invest in traffic management and control courses. This will ensure your organisation's traffic management plans are industry compliant and fulfil the regulations of your state.

The importance of radio communication

A report from the NSW Mine Safety Investigation Unit (MSIU) has found that one accident in particular could have been avoided if a driver had followed the mine's comprehensive traffic management plan.

On October 18 last year, a 100-tonne D11 dozer reversed over a light vehicle (LV) that had entered the work area of the dozer at the Mount Arthur Coal Mine. Fortunately, the LV driver escaped without injury. 

The MSIU's report found that the LV driver had discussed work with the dozer operator and they had agreed that the LV driver would wait in a designated parking area until the dozer operator had completed his task. However, the LV driver – incorrectly assuming work had finished – moved his vehicle behind the dozer.

While the LV driver claims he hailed the dozer operator on his radio to confirm the work had been completed, the operator was using a different channel at the time and was not aware the LV had been moved behind his vehicle.

The dozer reversed 2.5 metres over the passenger side of the LV before stopping and moving forward. Both workers were then taken to the mine's first aid room for assessment and each later underwent drug and alcohol testing. The LV driver was terminated the next day, for breaching occupational health and safety procedures.

The MSIU found the LV driver was at fault in this incident, as he failed to achieve positive radio contact before moving his vehicle from the designated parking area. The driver revealed that other calls over the radio from other locations within the mine may have confused him and led him to believe the operator had ceased work.

This highlights the need for effective transport rules and radio communication protocols, including establishing clear and unambiguous radio communications systems.

Tailor your traffic management plan to the environment

Just before midnight on November 30, 2013, a large haul truck collided with a light passenger vehicle at Ravensworth Surface Operations near Singleton, NSW. The incident resulted in the death of the LV driver.

The LV was being driven by a trainee plant operator, heading into the mine to begin the weekend shift. She entered a T-intersection and collided with the fully laden truck and suffered fatal injuries.

Initial investigation from the MSIU has revealed that the intersection in question is not illuminated by specific lighting and drivers are reliant on ambient illumination from a nearby workshop. 

While a specific cause for the accident has not yet been determined, the MSIU has hesitantly placed a focus on the night-time driving conditions at the mine, as well as other environmental issues. The investigation will continue into the road design, visibility and communications systems used to manage traffic in that area.

Additionally, the MSIU identified that the large haul truck has a significantly wide blind spot, which the LV driver unintentionally entered when driving through the intersection. Because of this, the unit has agreed to investigate the presence of collision avoidance and proximity detection systems.

While the LV had a visibility flag on its bonnet, enhancing visibility, it is likely that the lack of light in the area made this feature difficult to see. It is therefore crucial for all vehicles with large blind spots to be fitted with proximity detection systems, particularly when driving at night or during adverse weather conditions.

As the investigations for this incident are ongoing, it is difficult to highlight a specific area where the traffic management plan could be improved. However, ensuring the plan is adjusted to suit the time of day, weather conditions and road type are all important factors to consider.

If you are interested in improving the safety of your drivers, talk to AlertForce about traffic management and control training today!