Qld safety an explosive political issue

SAFETY is emerging as a hot issue in Queensland, with unions making it a central plank in a 15 month enterprise agreement campaign against the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance and the Bligh government pointing to the state’s high safety record in the run-up to elections.
Qld safety an explosive political issue Qld safety an explosive political issue Qld safety an explosive political issue Qld safety an explosive political issue Qld safety an explosive political issue

Union members, image courtesy of the CFMEU.

Lou Caruana

Queensland's mining industries continued to rank among the safest in the world, Employment, Skills and Mining Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said.

The Queensland Mines and Quarries Safety Performance and Health Report 2010-11 shows a range of improvements across most leading safety measures and Queensland's globally recognised mine safety expertise is now in heavy demand, he said.

"The Mines Inspectorate and Simtars (Safety in Mines Testing and Research Station) provided considerable technical support to support rescue and recovery efforts following the Pike River coal mine tragedy, which claimed the lives of 29 miners,” he said.

"A number of key Mines Inspectorate and Simtars personnel were airlifted to New Zealand to help, while Queensland's commissioner for mine safety and health Stewart Bell is one of the three commissioners serving on the Pike River Royal Commission of Inquiry.

"Queensland's mining safety laws are all about minimising risk so that every worker returns home safely at the end of every shift.

"Unfortunately, there were three fatalities during 2010-11 and our condolences go to the families, work mates and friends of those who lost their lives.

"Two of the fatalities were vehicle-related accidents at surface coal mines while the third resulted from an earth collapse on a small opal claim.”

Hinchliffe said work-related injuries in the mining industry continued to improve across a number of key performance indicators during 2010-11.

"Injuries to workers resulting in lost time fell from 307 in 2009-10 to 273 injuries, while disabling injuries rose from 428 the previous year to 505,” he said.

"Importantly, lost time injury frequency rates fell again from 3.8 injuries per million hours worked to 2.9 injuries.

"Days lost to injuries were down from 14,325 days to 11,027 days while the duration rate of injuries fell from 34.4 days to 27.4 days per injury.

"Overall, the severity rate for lost time injuries and disabling injuries also fell from 311 days in 2009-10 to 230 days lost per million hours worked."

Hinchliffe said the Bligh government was partnering with industry across a number of initiatives to further improve safety and health practices; including whole body vibration (WBV) in mining and proximity detection systems of vehicle fleets to reduce the risk of vehicle-related accidents.

"Based on input from both industry and unions, the WBV pilot project provided a format for toolbox talks and worker education that will be used as a model for further health hazard communication,” he said.

Mines inspectors undertook 1512 inspections and 179 audits during 2010-11. From these activities 345 directives and 1,334 substandard conditions or practices notices were issued.

The Mines Inspectorate also received 107 complaints on a wide range of safety issues and a significant number of man hours were expended in investigating high potential incidents and compliance matters, he said.

"The Mines Inspectorate has also been reviewing the use of polymeric chemicals in Queensland coal mines and has conducted a review of personal exposure to diesel particulate matter in Queensland underground coal mines,” Hinchliffe said.

"Mines inspectors have conducted workshops to assist opal and gemstone miners develop and implement a safety and health management system for their operations.”

Meanwhile, the stalemate continues between the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and other unions against BMA with fear that changing of statutory roles would compromise safety.

CFMEU national president Tony Maher told the Brisbane Times BMA was not injecting enough of its profits into its workers.

“BHP, one of the richest companies in the world, wants to make Australian mining jobs less safe and less secure,” Maher reportedly said.

“These workers are taking a stand for safe, secure jobs – BHP can afford to do the right thing.”