A mining company will come clean about substandard employment environments in response to a high-profile lawsuit.
Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) reluctantly agreed to release documents that WorkSafe Western Australia requested in relation to 34 alleged sexual harassment incidents at the Christmas Creek, Solomon and Cloudbreak mines.
The decision came five days after the industry regulator charged FMG with 34 counts of “refusing or failing to comply with a requirement to provide documents” to a WorkSafe inspector without a reasonable excuse. Such litigation could potentially attract a maximum penalty of up to $1.87 million.
“The Fortescue board considered the WorkSafe prosecution announced last week. Fortescue will submit documents to WorkSafe with the names of our people redacted to protect their identities,” a company spokesperson said according to the Australian Associated Press.
“We will continue to work and collaborate with WorkSafe, as we always have, to ensure our people always feel safe to speak up.”
FMG previously accused authorities of having “no legal basis” to seek worker information before declining to provide documents without employee knowledge and consent. However, this tone changed after holding talks with the State Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) on 13 February 2023.
“The commissioner acknowledges FMG has indicated an interest in providing documents to WorkSafe. He will evaluate it when he receives the information,” a WorkSafe spokesperson said according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Even if the proponent provides information, there is no guarantee the employer will avoid being fined at Perth Magistrates Court hearings scheduled to begin on 17 March 2023.
“We have never refused to comply,” FMG earlier said.
“In the past we have offered to provide redacted documents and DMIRS would not agree.”
WorkSafe maintains the State Work Health and Safety Act 2020 empowers inspectors to request timely documents, unless the person in charge of the business or undertaking has a reasonable excuse for non-compliance.