Collie coal miners threaten strikes over hot seating plan

Coal miners at Griffin coal are threatening industrial action over moves to introduce hot seating by extending workers hours.

The plan by the new Indian owners Lanco would see miner work 12.5 hours per shift so pre-start meetings and handover procedures do not halt production at the operation, The West reports.

Hot seat changeovers are commonplace in the mining industry, where downtime needs to be limited and production stoppages prevented.

A hot seat changeover, where the driver of a vehicle vacates at the end of a shift inside the mine and is replaced immediately with another worker, are a necessary but risky part of the mining industry, according to Central Queensland acting regional inspector of mines, Mike Walker.

A recent safety alert distributed to mines detailed a couple of incidents that occurred during hot seat changeovers.

The causes of the incidents were identified as operator inattention, conducting a hot-seat change in an active working area – and supervisors not recognising this as an obvious hazard, leading to the practice becoming commonplace, failure to repair a deflective alarm, poor or absent risk management and standard operating procedure (SOP) not including management of hot-seat changeovers.

Investigators found safety and health management risk systems at each mine had not adequately considered hot-seat changeovers and consequently risk was not being managed to ‘ as low as reasonably achievable.’

Lanco’s plan for hot seat changeovers may more than triple production at the coal mine from four million tonnes annually up to 15 million tonnes.

However CFMEU secretary Gary Wood said this plan is a stumbling block in the latest negotiations for a new enterprise bargaining agreement.

Wood said while these longer shifts are fine for FIFO mine sites where the workers are transported to accommodation camps, they are a serious issue for DIDO miners.

"One only has to look at drive-in, drive-out operations in Mackay and Blackwater where there has been a huge amount of road fatalities directly relating to people returning from long shifts," he said.

Central QLD coroner Annette Hennessy made 24 recommendations for the industry following her investigation into two separate fatal road accidents involving miners.

Hennessy stated that driver fatigue was a potential factor in both incidents where coal miners were driving home following work, one at Yeppoon in 2005 and the other in Dysart in 2007.

Regarding the ongoing negotiations at the Collie mine, Wood said that while management has agreed to a 15% pay raise over three years for workers, there is still disagreement over when the pay raise would begin.

He went on to say that "hours of work, use of contractors and retrospective payment are significant issues and if we can’t get agreement on those we will access industrial action".


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