Mine rescue has come a long way

Mine workers at Bulli Colliery in 1979. Mines Rescue today has an enviable safety record.
Mine workers at Bulli Colliery in 1979. Mines Rescue today has an enviable safety record.

Mines Rescue celebrated its 88th birthday on Thursday by looking back over the history of the organisation established on March 20, 1926, to help the NSW coal industry in emergency rescue situations and provide safety training.

The first Mines Rescue Station was opened in Abermain.

That was soon followed by stations in Wollongong, Newcastle and Lithgow.

Mines Rescue was established after the Bellbird Mine Disaster in September 1923, in which 21 miners lost their lives.

The incident followed several earlier mining disasters that killed 293 people in NSW between 1887 and 1921.

A coronial inquest and royal commission extensively debated the value of breathing apparatus and the establishment of a mines rescue service.

The Mines Rescue Act 1925 governed the establishment of rescue stations and brigadesmen teams, and instigated equipment and maintenance standards.

This legislation remains the foundation for governing mines rescue operations in NSW today.

The focus on safety and incident prevention has come a long way since 1926.

The primary role of Mines Rescue is to provide emergency incident response to the NSW coalmining industry.

But it also plays an equally important preventative role in preparing and training workers to operate safely, manage risk and learn occupational health and safety procedures.

Training now starts before most new workers ever set foot in a mine and continues throughout their careers.

Mines Rescue is now a registered training organisation and provides training in a range of skills from basic hazard awareness to complex emergency management control.

During the last nine decades it has been a major contributor to a significant improvement in safety to the point where NSW coalmines have one of the highest safety records in the world.

Coal Services managing director and chief executive Lucy Flemming said that was supported by industry statistics.

"Workers during 2002 had a one in four chance of sustaining an injury whereas today the chance is less than seven in one hundred," she said.

Mines Rescue general manager Paul Healey said the industry could be proud of the advances it had made in safety.

"The focus on getting our workers home safe to their families every day is everyone's responsibility. A responsibility we take very seriously."


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