Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Publication Details

This conference paper was originally published as McDonald, GL, Taking Stock of Safety, in Aziz, N (ed), Coal 2005: Coal Operators' Conference, University of Wollongong & the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, 2005, 137-142.


My early experience with the coal industry was in the latter half of the 1970s, where attention to only ones own ‘accidents’ and concentration on behaviour controls were impeding the introduction of effective engineering controls such as ROPS, FOPS, roof support and residual current devices. Lack of the broad picture of personal damage and of relevant veridical (true saying) knowledge and data had to be overcome to achieve progress in reducing fatalities. Thirty years on, it is again necessary to take stock. How good is our knowledge, our data, our information on which we make decisions. Despite Australian all industry 1992-93 data showing 80.5 per cent of costs came from occurrences which permanently altered people’s lives, New South Wales is still the only state reporting permanent disabilities. In 1991 - 1992, the rate of permanent disability per 1000 wage and salary earners was two. In 2000 - 2001, it was over four – more than doubled. Also strongly motivating is the huge cost. Industry carried 25 per cent of the $34.3 billion costs for 2000 - 2001, up ten per cent of 82.8 billion if the costs of pain, suffering and early death are included.