Maintaining a union role in mine site safety issues was a divisive issue in a bitter two-year industrial dispute between the company and the unions over enterprise agreements, which only came to an end late last year.
Despite safety positions being protected in the agreement, it is feared staff cuts and production pressure remain a valid threat to worker safety with the use of more contract labour.
“On Sunday January 13, a BMA employee was involved in a serious incident at Broadmeadow Mine,” BHP Billiton said in a statement.
“BMA’s onsite emergency response was activated. After initial treatment onsite and in Moranbah, the employee was airlifted to Mackay Base Hospital, where he is receiving treatment for his arm injury.
“BMA has a full investigation under way.”
BHP Billiton has remained tight-lipped otherwise, despite requests from ILN seeking further information about the incident.
At the conclusion of the enterprise agreements, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union said it was disappointed BHP had failed to abandon its WorkChoices-era approach to labour hire and contract workers, who received inferior pay and conditions to permanent workers.
“It’s really disappointing to see BHP continue to cling to WorkChoices-era provisions for its contract labour force, given the company’s reliance on contractors across its operations, ” it said.
The Queensland Resources Council has made a submission to the government that reform is needed to the state’s safety regulations.
In Queensland, the CFMEU currently nominates three safety inspectors, who can order the closure of a mine following a safety incident. In NSW, that decision is made by a government-appointed inspector.
This would effectively ensure that safety is not used as a pretext to close down a mine.
The unions maintain that the state’s enviable safety record will be at risk if its existing regulatory regime is changed.
BMA is under pressure to contain operating costs as lower prices, with the effects of industrial action forcing it to mothball its Norwich Park mine.