Near misses 'caused by drivers distracted by social media'

MINE workers could face prosecution if caught using social media or hand-held gadgets while operating machinery.

It follows an APN report highlighting concerns that mobile technology was infiltrating the cabins of heavy machinery and causing distractions on mine sites.

The government arm charged with ensuring mine safety - the Queensland Mines Inspectorate - revealed this week that several investigations were under way after a number of potentially disastrous near-misses.

Each was believed to have been caused by drivers distracted by social media when they were working.

A spokesman for Queensland Department of Mines said while the mine owners had to ensure the safety of those on site, workers themselves had their own responsibilities.

"Mine workers also have legal obligations to not expose themselves or other workers to an unacceptable level of risk," he said.

"The (inspectorate) would consider the use of mobile technology whilst operating vehicles or mobile machinery on site is potentially exposing people to risk."

Due to the machinery and nature of underground mining, such distractions were less likely for subterranean workers.

He said some mining companies were creating policies to directly deal with those using social media while controlling machinery.

Queensland Resources Council acting chief Greg Lane said some mines were now taking steps to quell the use of mobile devices while at work.

He said mines wanted to cut down the amount of mobile devices with internet access, keeping mobile phones only available in emergencies or by using hands-free settings while safely parked.

University of Queensland Associate Professor Tim Horberry, who specialises in human factors and driver error, particularly relating to mine machinery, said there was no "silver bullet" and regulation was often hard to enforce on those behind the wheel, whether on roads or at a mine.

"The key is setting best examples and warning people of the dangers of (being distracted)," Mr Horberry.

"It's about designing systems without distraction."

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