Researcher biography

Nikky specialises in mining occupational health and safety research with a focus on particulates.

Nikky is a driven researcher with 15 years of experience in mining engineering with a focus on occupational health and safety research. Her research interests include respirable dust, real-time monitoring, accident and injury data analysis, emergency management and self-escape. She has underground and surface coal experience having worked in Australia, North & South America with a focus on strategic planning, project management and mine planning.

Research Interests

>Management of Particulates in the Resources Sector

Strategically assessing knowledge gaps in the understanding of particulates including inspirable dusts, respirable dusts, fine particles (including diesel emissions) and ultrafine particles and the growing awareness of the contribution of silica to respiratory disease. Establishing the current state of knowledge, gaps, and future opportunities for human exposure and health, monitoring, control effectiveness, non-coal mining, diesel particulate matter, and cumulative impacts.  Trialling and comparative testing of gravimetric and real-time respirable dust monitoring technologies.

>Incident Management

Improving incident management practices by conducting Queensland Level 1 Emergency exercises and assessing the actions of the mines incident management team. Reviewing previous Level 1 exercise report recommendations and collating key themes to produce a best practices guide for industry. Aligning emergency management systems across all Queensland underground coal mines including escapeway markings, non-verbal communications, lifeline and hard hat colours. Establishing design criteria for built-in-place emergency shelters in underground mines.

>Injury Analysis and Accident Investigation

Reviewing and analysing fatality, high potential incident, serious accident and lost time injury data. Recoding data and creating a new injury classification taxonomy better suited to mining industry conditions to convey the trends in the data. Identifying organisational factors contributing to fatalities and high potential incidents. Reviewing occupational health statistics and disease surveillance systems with particular interest in relation to geographical distribution of disease prevalence.


>Bachelor of Science, Mining & Minerals Engineering, Virginia Tech

>Masters of Business Administration, Finance, University of Alabama Birmingham

>Registered Professional Engineer Queensland

>Chartered Professional AusIMM


LaBranche, N. (2018). Emerging Trends in Injuries in the Underground Coal Sector: An Analysis of Queensland Data from 2006-2017. Proceedings of the 18th Coal Operators' Conference, Mining Engineering, University of Wollongong, 7-9 February 2018, 39-47.

Cliff, D.; LaBranche, N.; Shepherd, M.; and Djukic, F. (2018). Improving Respirable Coal Dust Exposure Monitoring and Control. Proceedings of the 18th Coal Operators' Conference, Mining Engineering, University of Wollongong, 300-304.

LaBranche, N. Task Group 4- Stories of the past and present, Queensland Mining Industry Health and Safety conference, Gold Coast Queensland, 6-8 August 2017.

Nelson, D. and LaBranche, N. (2017). Managing Contractors in Mining- Understanding the Factors Underlying the Safety Statistics. Queensland Mining Industry Health and Safety conference, Gold Coast Queensland, 6-8 August 2017.

LaBranche, N and Callinan, G, (2016). Organisational factors in fatalities and high potential incidents, in Proceedings International Mine Management Conference, Brisbane Queensland, 22-24 August 2016, pp 201-206.

Trackemas J.; Thimons, E.; Bauer, E.; Sapko, M.; Zipf, R.; Schall, J.; Rubinstein, E.; Finfinger, G.; Patts L..; and LaBranche N. (2015). Facilitating the use of built-in-place refuge alternatives in mines. By Pittsburgh, PA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2015-114, RI 9698.