Helmet, 'Tuffmaster III', used at Cooranbong Colliery, plastic/ leather, Protector Safety, Australia, 1989
Compared to other jobs, mining is one of the most dangerous occupations in Australia. Mine safety is consequently a major concern for workers, unions, employers and governments.
Risks in underground coal mining include roof or wall collapse (what miners call a 'fall of ground'), the build up of toxic gases, or explosive concentrations of coal dust. Since the middle of the nineteenth century, miners have worn or carried equipment to protect them from, or alert them to, these dangers.
In 1999 the Cooranbong Colliery donated to the museum a full set of underground coal mine official's personal equipment as an example of the gear worn by each of its managers and undermanagers. Cooranbong Colliery, located at Dora Creek, New South Wales, is owned by Powercoal Pty. Ltd. It supplies coal to the nearby Eraring power station.
The set of equipment donated includes protective gear such as boots, a helmet with a lamp, and a self-rescuer (which provides breathable air in an emergency) that are worn or carried by all underground. It also includes gas monitoring equipment that is additional gear carried by coal mine officials to help them assess hazards and maintain a safe workplace underground.
Helmets protect the wearer from bumping their head on the roof or from small falls of stone or coal. Helmets also hold the lamp that is the miner's light source. Miners call them a 'helmet' or a 'pit helmet'.
Most Australian coal miners wear helmets similar to this one donated to the Powerhouse Museum by Cooranbong Colliery. Mine helmets resemble helmets worn on building sites, but have some special modifications. This helmet has a metal clip at the front to hold the miner's lamp, and a leather and press-stud clasp near the back to guide the cord that supplies electricity to the lamp from a battery carried on the miner's belt. This helmet also has a sticker with the number '1' on it. It signifies that this helmet had been used by a mines rescue team. Numbers are used to designate each team member and allow the team leader to communicate with them. The helmet also has two Cooranbong Colliery stickers on it. Stickers like these are a valued part of mining culture, and are exchanged by miners across the world.
Designed to Australian Standard.
The helmet was manufactured by Protector Safety of Guilford, NSW, Australia.
The helmet is marked with a date of manufacture: 9/89. It was in use at the Cooranbong Colliery until 1999.