By Samantha James

HEALTH and safety management practices need a complete overhaul to prevent incidents at Australian mine sites, according to presenters at the Fluro Conference in Perth.

International safety professionals and experts across Australia converged on 10 and 11 November to discuss issues in health and safety in a range of industry sectors.

Imperfect reporting systems were highlighted in presentations by Alcoa global director of refining health and safety Danny Spadaccini and Greg Smith, legal practice director at STE Safety and Legal.

Mr Smith told conference attendees that within health and safety companies spend an enormous amount of time creating data “that tells us absolutely nothing”.

He said lost time injury rates (LTIR) were the “posterchild of irrelevancy” in safety conversations.

“What we are doing is paying employees an extraordinary amount of money to produce a database of evidence that demonstrates we are not complying.”

Mr Spadaccini said that while Alcoa worked hard to manage health and safety across its international locations, it wasn’t perfect.

“When we look at our biggest failures we often find that we haven’t engaged with the people that actually know the job,” he said.

“If our people don’t understand our processes and systems then we may as well pack up and go home.”

Industrial Foundation for Accident Prevention managing director Martin Ralph.
Industrial Foundation for Accident Prevention managing director Martin Ralph.

Fluoro organiser Industrial Foundation for Accident Prevention’s (IFAP) managing director Martin Ralph called union corruption, poor regulation of training and instances of rorting the funding system within the safety industry an “outrage”.

“As a proud safety professional, these actions, if proven, serve to denigrate our profession and undermine our efforts – as a community we should be outraged,” he said.

Opening the conference, WA Premier Colin Barnett said that while technological innovations such as automation were reducing the risk of human error and fatigue, they could foster complacency and attention lapse.

“Don’t underestimate the risks,” he said.