Coal Services prides itself on its ongoing commitment to the health and safety of the NSW coal mining industry.
This commitment is steeped in history, having been involved in the industry in one form or another since the 1920s.
Mine Owners Insurance Ltd was incorporated on 22 December 1921 and issued its first policy in 1922. The company’s aim was to underwrite workers compensation risks in the NSW coal industry.
On 1 September, 21 miners died in the Bellbird coal mine disaster. This followed several mining disasters between 1887 and 1921 which killed a total of 293 people in NSW. 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 brigades teams, and instigated equipment and maintenance standards. This remains the foundation for governing mines rescue operations in NSW today.
The first mines rescue station in NSW began operations on 20 March at Abermain. Stations in Newcastle, Wollongong and Lithgow opened shortly thereafter.
Stations in Newcastle, Wollongong and Lithgow opened shortly thereafter.
The first mines rescue station in NSW began operations on 20 March at Abermain.
The Commonwealth and the NSW State Government established the Joint Coal Board (JCB) under the Coal Industry Act 1946.
The JCB established medical bureaus in each major coal mining region to conduct medical health surveillance and occupational hygiene services to protect those at risk and promote dust control at mines.
The JCB established a welfare fund based on the Miners’ Welfare Commission in the United Kingdom, where funds were granted ‘for the benefit of mine workers and the communities in which they live’.
The JCB purchased Mine Owners Insurance Ltd in June 1948 and renamed it Coal Mines Insurance. The JCB’s Order No. 10 required each employer in the coal industry to effect with the Board all workers compensation insurance for all mine workers.
First annual report of the Joint Coal Board 1947-48
The JCB was committed to 'the elimination of health hazards, such as the incidence of dust' so that 'all men in the industry will know that everything possible is being done to protect them from occupational complaints.'
The JCB was credited with introducing the first Joy Continuous Miner in the country. One of the JCB’s objectives was to promote mechanisation in the coal fields.
The JCB established the Standing Committee on Dust Research and Control with representatives from all key sectors of the industry to drive the strategic monitoring of dust levels and to support research on methods of dust suppression.
The first underground mines rescue competition was held in the Southern region.
The first ‘inter-district’ mines rescue competition was held in Wollongong. It included teams from NSW, Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia, with the Southern Mine (NSW) winning the event. The Australian Underground Mines Rescue Competition continues to be contested today by teams from NSW and Qld.
(image: Newcastle team at the 1964 competition held in Qld – used with permission from QMRS)
The Mines Rescue Act was amended to establish the Mines Rescue Board as a body corporate. The first Board meeting was held on 23 November.
Order 34 was implemented by the JCB to ensure mine owners developed training plans for mine workers that would improve the safety of the workplace.
The Abermain Rescue Station closed after 57 years of service and transferred operations to Singleton Heights to become the Hunter Valley Mines Rescue Station. This signalled greater involvement with open cut coal mines.
Coal Mines Technical Services was established as part of the Southern Mines Rescue Station, following recommendations from a Mines Rescue Board delegation to Europe to determine the best practice for various mines rescue agencies.
The Commonwealth and NSW governments reconstituted the JCB to provide for one Board Member to be drawn from the trade union movement, one from coal company management and one from government.
CMI opened their first regional office in Singleton, followed by Warners Bay and Corrimal offices in 1988. Prior to this time CMI had a centralised based claims service out of Sydney.
The Health and Safety Trust was formed to seek out, nurture and apply quality research for the benefit of coal miners.
A review of the JCB’s operations was carried out (the Kelman Report), resulting in amendments to the Commonwealth and NSW Coal Industry Acts. The amendments refocused the Board away from engineering and industrial issues to a primary concern for the occupational health and welfare of mine workers.
Mines Rescue became a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) in October 1996.
Mines Rescue published the first edition of ‘A manual on Mines Rescue, Safety and Gas Detection’.
In 1999, the JCB had a vision to develop an interactive virtual reality simulator to provide more effective training for the NSW coal industry. This followed concern around the high incident rate being experienced by the industry at the time.
On 1 January 2002, the JCB and Mines Rescue Boards were dissolved and Coal Services Pty Limited commenced operations per the Coal Industry Act 2001 (NSW).
In October 2004, the first Virtual Reality Technologies simulator was officially opened at the Newcastle Mines Rescue Station to provide immersive training experiences in a simulated environment.
Coal Services inaugural annual report
The new arrangements represent a break from the past and provide a unique opportunity to enhance the delivery of critical services to the coal industry in the areas of occupational health and safety, workers compensation, welfare and mines rescue.
In November the Southern Mines Rescue Station hosted the 7th International Mines Rescue competition. Sixteen mines rescue teams from around the world, including China, Russia and the US competed at the event. Appin West’s mines rescue team represented Australian and won the overall competition.
Order 41 and Order 42 were introduced to formalise workers’ health assessments (pre-placement medicals and periodic health surveillance) and to monitor airborne dust in coal mines.
CS Health expanded operations into Mudgee to provide occupational health services in the region.
The Moolarben Mines Rescue station was officially opened near Mudgee in December to service the growing mining industry in the region.
The Coal Industry Act 2001 (NSW) was amended to include a definition of an employer in the coal industry to restore the Act’s original intent of ensuring all NSW coal industry workers are covered by CMI to benefit from the wider services offered by Coal Services’ Specialised Health and Safety Scheme.
NSW Coal Order 43 came into effect on 1 July 2018 following approved changes to health monitoring requirements for coal mine workers in NSW. It replaced Order 41.
2020 to today
An interim Mines Rescue training facility was opened in the Gunnedah region to deliver specialised safety training to industry.
Mines Rescue Consulting was established as a dedicated function to support industry in the development, auditing and testing of safety, crisis and emergency management systems.
CS Health opened in Gunnedah in September, following growing demand for occupational medical services in the region.
Coal Services commenced services from the Mine Safety Laboratory.