PUBLIC HEARING: Moranbah miner says critical safety roles on mine sites must be filled by permanent employees.
PUBLIC HEARING: Moranbah miner says critical safety roles on mine sites must be filled by permanent employees.

Contractors fear sacking over speaking out on mine safety

A MORANBAH miner says critical safety roles on mine sites must be filled by permanent employees to ensure they are not reprimanded or fired over disagreements with management about site safety issues.

Brodie Brunker, who works at BMA's Broadmeadow mine, said he had witnessed first-hand the "vulnerability" of contract deputies being over-ruled by management, even though the deputy is ultimately responsible for the area of the mine.

"They know if they do not follow the instructions given, even though they do not agree with the decision, they will either be pulled into the office and reprimanded or, worse, shown the door," Mr Brunker said.

State Parliament has sought submissions over the new Mineral and Energy Resources and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2020.

If the bill is passed in its current form senior officers and corporations could be tried for industrial manslaughter under the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act if criminal negligence is proven in a workers' death.

Isaac region mines include the Peak Downs Mine, Saraji Mine, Goonyella Riverside Mine and Broadmeadow Mine. Picture: Zizi Averill
Isaac region mines include the Peak Downs Mine, Saraji Mine, Goonyella Riverside Mine and Broadmeadow Mine. Picture: Zizi Averill

Mr Brunker was one of three people who gave a verbal submission in an open session during a public hearing in Moranbah earlier this month.

While he stated his support for the bill, he said coalmine operators could find loopholes in some of its wording, allowing them to continue to intimidate workers with their employment.

"Wording needs to be implemented to ensure these (critical safety) roles are filled by a permanent employee of the mine operator," Mr Brunker said.

"Having all critical safety roles employed on a permanent employment type will give the person the confidence to stop the job regardless of the circumstances and not fear for their job."

BHP lodged a formal submission to the bill with a key recommendation that senior site executives and those reporting to them be expressly excluded from the industrial manslaughter offence.

BHP's submissions state the introduction of an industrial manslaughter offence that did not expressly exclude SSEs and those reporting to them would likely have a negative effect on senior staff, who already worked within good safety systems, and undermine any work already done to make the industry safer.

Mines Minister Anthony Lynham.
Mines Minister Anthony Lynham.

"Our SSEs are concerned that they could be captured by the industrial manslaughter offence and become a target once the new laws commence, and be punished despite their best efforts and overwhelming commitment to mine site safety," the submission states.

In its submission, Glencore noted concerns had been raised with the State Government

from industry stakeholders about the potential for these reforms to negatively impact

health and safety outcomes at Queensland coal mines.

Peabody Resources said it also held "grave concerns" that the bill would not strengthen the safety culture in the resources sector.

It its submission, Anglo American said while it did not oppose the introduction of an industrial manslaughter provision, it also had serious concerns about the current drafting of the bill.

"The exposure of site statutory positions and other site employees to criminal charges, with

limited defences, would be a strong deterrent for the individuals in those positions to take

ownership of safety-related decisions including risk assessments," it said.

The committee is due to table its report on March 27.



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