Are height-related accidents a problem in mining?

Mining employees typically aren’t exposed to the same height-related risks as construction workers, but personnel should still consider enrolling in height safety courses.

According to a 2013 report from Safe Work Australia (SWA), 4 per cent of height-related fatalities transpired at mining facilities between 2008 and 2011. While such figures are tragic, the extractives industry has been improving its safety measures.

Height-related deaths in mining decreased 75 per cent from 1989-92 to 2008-11.

The SWA study showed height-related deaths in mining declined 75 per cent in the period from 1989-92 to 2008-11. In addition, in the 2008-11 period, the number of serious claims due to falls from heights decreased.

Height hazards in mining environments

The risks associated with underground mines are pretty extensive, and apply to mobile work platforms, fixed structures, working near openings, developing rises and conducting tasks on ladderways. The Western Australia Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) developed a guidebook detailing how companies can manage these hazards at facilities.

Before detailing how to conduct a risk management strategy, administrators should familiarise themselves with a few of the aforementioned considerations:

  • Mobile work platforms enable personnel to access difficult-to-reach areas, especially those at heights. In addition to falling from these stages, employees may be caught in between rock faces and the platforms themselves.
  • Fixed work structures are ladders, scaffolds, pinned platforms and other assets that are either permanent or semi-constant. Some of the hazards are related to assembling and dismantling such structures and the stability of the rockmass on which they are constructed.
  • Working near openings presents the chance of employees falling down shafts or pits and sustaining serious injuries.


Maintaining visibility during overnight operations is imperative.

Addressing specific risks

The DMP not only named several mining hazards but also recommended measures to reduce those risks.

For instance, when conducting tasks near open pits, managers should deduce whether or not employees can carry out those responsibilities away from those openings.

In regard to working on fixed platforms, the DMP advised professionals to install handrail guards on scaffolds and other such structures.

Another important consideration involves calculating fixed structures’ stability after seismic activity or blasting. Overall, it’s imperative to select fixed platforms capable of maintaining their support after concussions.

Finally, in regard to mobile platforms, simply choosing the right equipment can go a long way. The DMP maintained that scissor lifts are often designed for underground mines and are therefore dependable options for mining companies.

Addressing specific hazards is obviously productive, but conducting a comprehensive height risk assessment is advisable. Ignoring the big picture never worked out to a person’s benefit.