Work safety in the industry will not improve significantly unless mine operators take responsibility for the safety of their workplaces, an industry leader has warned.
Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) sees no need for an inquiry into mine safety and believes the nation would save a lot of time and money, if Queensland mine owners and operators were simply held responsible for the safety of their workers.
“We have disappointed by the attitude of some mine operators who are still refusing to take the safety crisis in Queensland mining seriously,” CFMMEU mining and energy Queensland district president Stephen Smyth said in a public statement. “Too many workers are being injured, and too many are being killed. We don’t need more navel-gazing, we need to see some accountability.”
Smyth blames proponents for pushing the responsibility further down the supply chain to contractors and outsourcers instead of tackling the matter themselves.
A CFMMEU survey of 1000 Queensland coal mine workers showed 40 per cent of permanent staff fear backlash for speaking up about safety compared to 60 per cent of casual mineworkers.
“That’s why it is essential that all coal workers must be empowered to stand up and speak out on safety matters without the fear of reprisal,” Smyth said.
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Job security woes
The findings also revealed the negative effect of dwindling job security on staff morale and its indirect impact on work safety.
“Nearly nine in 10 coal miners said that casualisation of jobs at their work site has affected safety,” Smyth said. “Coal mining has experienced a widespread move away from permanent, direct employment by operators to casual jobs supplied by labour hire contractors over the past five to 10 years. Permanent employees are now a minority at many Queensland coal mines.”
He believes every mine worker deserves to be safe.
“We owe to the workers who have lost their lives, or who have been seriously injured, to genuine, tangible safety improvements in our industry,” he said. “The current safety reset process involving the Queensland Government, mine operators and unions is a positive step.”