Coalmine workers speak out on mine safety risk factors

Friday, 02 August, 2019

Coalmine workers speak out on mine safety risk factors

Declining job security in coalmining is a major mine safety risk factor, according to a survey conducted by the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).

In the survey of over 1000 Queensland coalmine workers, almost nine in 10 respondents said casualisation of jobs at their worksite has affected safety. Over the last five to 10 years, coalmining has seen a widespread shift away from permanent, direct employment by operators to casual jobs supplied by labour hire contractors, with the CFMEU reporting that permanent employees are now a minority at many Queensland coalmines.

Part of the problem is that workers — particularly casual workers — fear reprisal, such as disciplinary action or sacking, if they speak up about safety concerns.

According to CFMEU Queensland District President Stephen Smyth, this fear is not unfounded and many mine workers have experienced or witnessed retaliatory action when raising safety concerns.

“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,” Smyth said.

“We need 100% of mine workers to feel confident they can report safety issues without fear.”

This left workers calling for permanent employment, a better reporting culture and a focus on safety over production targets.

“We need a better reporting culture and no fear of being in trouble for reporting issues to coordinators and superintendents [throughout] the safety and health management system. And taking time to fix these issues,” one worker said.

“Management [needs] to stop pushing supervisors for production targets and not fixing roads because it holds up production,” said another.

Eight in 10 workers said that production being valued over safety was a top concern and six in 10 said they didn’t believe safety was a top priority for site managers.

Mine workers also highlighted the need for quality training, maintenance and repairs on worksites and equipment and law enforcement.

Currently, Queensland’s coalmining and quarry industry is in the second week of its safety reset, giving workers the opportunity to discuss mining risks and safe practices with management and relevant union representatives.

Participants are encouraged to provide feedback on the safety reset via the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy’s (DNMRE) safety reset survey or

Image credit: © Studio

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