Plant & Equipment

Safety deadline passes as MP warns non-compliant operators

The 50,000-strong mining and quarrying workforce have been required to partake in workplace safety sessions in the past seven weeks. It forms part of an urgent government/industry response to address ongoing health and safety concerns in the state after the on-site deaths of six workers in less than 12 months.

The initiative was designed for specific on-site discussions between employees, management, operational staff and union representatives to refocus on risks and safe practice.

As of 18 August, Queensland Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said nearly half of those required to take part in the “safety reset” had done so. That left some 26,000 people just 13 days to complete their meetings, and the MP said he would be compelled to take a hard line on unobliging operators.

“More than 23,000 workers have joined management and union representatives to take part in safety resets at more than 160 mines and quarries,” he told companies and union representatives at a recent safety forum on the Gold Coast.

“That’s a lot of people, but the commitment from companies and unions in July was that every worker, at every site would attend a reset by the end of August. I will report to the regional Parliament in Townsville on the reset [from 3 to 5 September], and that includes naming any sites and their operators where workers have not had resets.”

Quarry operators take stock

Cement Concrete & Aggregates Australia (CCAA) has been helping facilitate the safety meetings. The CCAA’s Queensland director Aaron Johnstone said he was confident all state member companies would meet the deadline.

{{quote-A:R-W:175-I:2-Q:“One of the biggest messages coming out of the resets is about the importance of looking out for your workmates” -who:Aaron Johnstone, CCAA Queensland}}CCAA represents about 25 member companies in the state, most with numerous sites, including Boral, Hanson, and Holcim, which operate around 20 each.

“Quarry operators have received the safety reset very well and have found it a very useful process,” Johnstone said. “They have said the resets have provided an important ‘time out’ to reflect on safety in a collaborative way, as well as presenting a number of powerful messages that have impacted them on a personal level as well.

“One of the biggest messages coming out of the resets is about the importance of looking out for your workmates, as well as specific practical safety issues including machine guarding and isolation, light/heavy vehicle interactions, situational awareness, and traffic management.”

Before Quarry went to press, Johnstone strongly urged operators to hold the safety reset meetings if they were yet to do so. “The feedback from both small and large sites alike is that it’s been a very useful process and a positive experience.

“Doing the safety resets also sends a key message to your workforce, your customers and your stakeholders that your company values safety and is serious about making sure everyone goes home safely at the end of every shift.”

Further measures

The safety reset followed a July forum in which industry and government also agreed to work together on further reforms to strengthen safety culture in the resources sector. This includes sanctions for reckless behaviour and legislative reforms, such as the government’s proposal to actively consider the offence of “industrial manslaughter”.

As part of the safety response, the Queensland Government has allocated $1.68 million in its budget to recruit three more mines inspectors and a chief inspector of coal mining.

Two independent reviews are also due to report back by the end of 2019. The first will consider why mine and quarry workers have died over the past 20 years, and how industry can improve and the mines inspectorate can work better. The second will focus on the state’s mining health and safety legislation.

Lynham accused Queensland’s Liberal National Party opposition of attempting to delay action on the reforms by proposing to set up a three-month parliamentary inquiry into mine safety. The move was voted down by the parliament.

The shadow mines minister Dale Last argued a bipartisan parliamentary inquiry would have had greater investigative power than the government’s two independent reviews and “could have provided the answers and the path forward the industry needs”.


More reading:
Fatalities force Queensland extractive sector to take stock
Mine safety: Too much, too far?
Challenging ourselves, our records on safety?
Workplaces urged to scrub up on safety
Worker fatally buried in former quarry

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