What are the health assessment and monitoring requirements for mining operations?

Overview of legal requirements

The principal employer and each employer at a mine must ensure that:

  • health assessments are carried out in respect to workers who engages in specified occupational exposure work at the mine
  • biological monitoring is carried out in respect of workers where there is a recognised biological monitoring procedure and a reasonable likelihood that accepted values might be exceeded.

Health assessments and biological monitoring apply to any worker (i.e. employees and contractors) involved in exploration and mining activities in Western Australia.

Refer to rr. 3.27 and 3.28 of the Mines Safety and Inspection Regulations 1995.

What is biological monitoring?

Biological monitoring is the measurement and evaluation of hazardous substances or their metabolites in the body tissues, fluids or exhaled air of a person. These are used in the assessment and management of exposure risks to hazardous substances where there is a reasonable likelihood that accepted values might be exceeded.

Developing a sampling quota to support risk-based hygiene management

Mining operations are required to carry out a structured risk assessment of their occupational health hazards, and develop a risk-based hygiene management plan. This management plan is intended to accurately describe all health hazards for the operation and the controls required to prevent harm to persons from these.

For greenfield sites, the risk-based hygiene management plan should be:

  • prepared in advance of commissioning
  • based on available knowledge of potential occupational exposures.

Existing sites should have a risk-based hygiene management plan approved by the responsible inspector before the end of each financial year or whenever it is identified that:

  • similar exposure groups (SEGs) contain exposure incompatibilities
  • there are changes to the workplace, workforce, processes or environment that potentially influence exposures
  • monitoring reveals unacceptable exposures.

The risk-based hygiene management plan is used as an auditing tool for existing sites.

The responsible mines inspector is responsible for ensuring health hazards are managed and Health and Hygiene systems operate effectively for mine and exploration sites under their jurisdiction.

Monitoring procedures

The Mine Safety and Inspection Regulations 1995 require the mining industry to regularly sample for atmospheric contaminants and report the results to the Department.

Certain conditions on sampling for atmospheric contaminants are detailed in the regulations to ensure samples are representative and use approved procedures.

Some of the sampling conditions are detailed in r. 9.13 of the Mines Safety and Inspection Regulations 1995.

Management of diesel emissions in Western Australian mining operations - guideline - 1744 Kb

Management of diesel emissions in Western Australian mining operations - guideline: This guideline should be used by anyone planning or conducting underground mining where diesel engines are likely or are being used.

The methods for collecting and analysing dusts are described in the following Australian Standards, available from Standards Australia.

  • AS 3640 Workplace atmospheres - Method for sampling and gravimetric determination of inhalable dust
  • AS 2985 Workplace atmospheres - Method for sampling and gravimetric determination of respirable dust

Exposure standards

Atmospheric contaminant levels in workplaces must be maintained below the exposure standards and as low as practicable.

Where no specific exposure standard has been assigned and the substance is both of inherently low toxicity and free from toxic impurities, exposure to dusts should be maintained below 10 mg/m3, measured as inhalable dust (8 hour TWA).

TWA means time-weighted average. 8 hour TWA is the average value of exposure over the course of an 8-hour work shift.

Information on current exposure standards is available from Safe Work Australia’s Adopted national exposure standards for atmospheric contaminants in the occupational environment.

Adjustment of atmospheric contaminant exposure standards - guide - 784 Kb

This guide provides current and relevant guidance to the mining industry for adjustment of exposure standards for extended work shifts

Any samples that exceed the exposure standard must be reported to the department as an exceedance.

Reporting contaminant results to the department

The Health and Hygiene system is an electronic database that stores atmospheric contaminant exposure results for mining workers. The system is also the mechanism for an operation to report the results for its risk-based hygiene management plan.

Only health and hygiene registered samplers may submit results to the Health and Hygiene system.

Related information

Below is the list of documents that you may find useful.

Surface dust management – audit guide - 695 Kb

This audit guideline provides information on the surface dust management HIF audit.

Surface atmospheric contaminant management – audit guide - 785 Kb

This audit guideline provides information on the surface atmospheric contaminant management audit.