The Coal Mining Board of Inquiry’s final report released today paints a shocking picture of safety management at Anglo’s Grosvenor mine, finding that workers at the underground coal mine were exposed to unacceptable risk for months before last May’s explosion.
CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland President Stephen Smyth welcomed the release of the comprehensive report and said the Union would review all its findings and recommendations in the days and weeks ahead.
Mr Smyth said the most shocking thing to come out of the report was the detailed account of Anglo’s failure to manage dangerous gases at Grosvenor in the months leading up to the blast.
“I felt sick reading the detail about Anglo’s recklessness,” said Mr Smyth.
“Management knew there were problems following a series of high potential incidents during March and April, but did not slow coal production to match its gas drainage capacity.
“The report clearly finds that ‘coal mine workers were repeatedly subject to an unacceptable level or risk’ (Finding 58).
“Last year’s explosion was a shocking and traumatic event and it makes my blood run cold to think that the outcome could have been much worse.
“Coal mine workers put their lives in the hands of mine managers every time they go to work and they should be able to have confidence every possible measure is in place to protect them. They have been seriously let down in this case.”
Mr Smyth said the Union would work hard to make sure the Inquiry’s findings lead to systemic improvements in the industry – including employment practices.
The report looks at the extensive use of casual labour hire in Queensland’s coal mining industry, finding that there is widespread perception among contractors that they could lose their job if they raise a safety concern and that there is no obligation for mine operators to inform labour hire companies over worker safety risks. However, the report notes a lack of research into the full effects of workforce casualisation in the mining industry.
Mr Smyth said a further Inquiry focused on the widespread replacement of permanent direct jobs with casual labour hire in the mining industry was necessary to understand the relationship to safety outcomes.
“It’s not good enough for mine operators to just assert that casualisation is fine and dandy,” Mr Smyth said.
“It’s certainly not the view of workers on the ground that removing rights and job security is conducive to a good safety culture. There is more work to be done to tackle this toxic business model.”