Nearly nine in ten coal miners say the casualisation of jobs at their work site is affecting workplace safety, in a survey conducted by the Miners’ Union Queensland.
Of the over 1000 workers surveyed, four in ten feared reprisals for speaking up about safety – a number that increased to six in ten for casual mineworkers.
Last month, two independent health and safety reviews into Queensland’s mines and quarries were launched, after the state recorded its sixth fatality in 12 months. It made 2019 Queensland’s worst year for mining deaths since 1997 (see related article).
The CFMEU says permanent employees are now a minority at many Queensland coal mines, as the industry continues to move away from permanent, direct employment options to casual jobs supplied by labour hire contractors.
Eight in ten workers said production being valued above safety as a top concern, and six in ten said they didn’t believe safety was the top priority for site managers.
CFMEU Queensland district president Stephen Smyth said many mineworkers had experienced retaliatory action after raising safety concerns, including casual workers finding they are suddenly no longer required.
“No-one is told that the reason they’ve been sacked or disciplined is for raising a concern over safety – but workers can see what is happening.”
“They are labelled as whingers and moved on or otherwise victimised. We need 100 percent of mineworkers to feel confident they can report safety issues without fear.”
Other safety concerns raised by workers included procedures not being followed, inexperienced supervisors, bullying and harassment, and unsafe equipment.
“These results reflect what we hear every day from mineworkers on the ground and they are a poor reflection on the industry. You can’t have an insecure, vulnerable workers and a ruthless focus on production and expect there will be no consequences for safety.”
“It’s obvious that some operators are taking it very seriously and allocating adequate time and effort, while others are glossing over the issues.”
“There’s no room for complacency. It’s clear that workers at the coal face don’t believe companies are making safety their number one priority – operators must take this opportunity to show they are committed to change.”