Falling fatalities in QLD shouldn’t lead to safety cuts, CFMEU says

While the Queensland mining industry celebrates a drop in the number of fatalities on sites, the CFMEU warns that the Government should not use it as an excuse to cut safety standards.

It comes as the Queensland Mines Inspectorate Annual Performance Report showed a decrease in the number of deaths on site, dropping from three in FY2010-11, down to one in 2011-12.

The QLD minister for natural resources, Andrew Cripps, said that while this figure was an improvement, there was still work to be done.

“The Queensland Government’s target will always be zero fatalities,” Cripps said.

“Only last month at the annual Miners Memorial Day we remembered those workers who lost their lives while on the job, and it is vitally important we continue to work with industry towards a zero harm working environment.”

However the CFMEU says that the QLD government is actually considering weakening safety regulations on site.

The union said it would strongly oppose such efforts, and draw on any means possible to fight the changes.

"Delegates from every coalmine, port and power station across QLD passed resolutions to fight reducing safety standards with 'all necessary steps' including withdrawing all labour from every coal operation across the state," it said.

At the union's QLD district convention delegates said the Newman Government was considering lessening workers compensation as well as safety guidelines.

The CFMEU has previously threatened strikes across all its coal mines in an effort to fight any changes.

Now it has again come out against the government, which it claims is cynically taking the credit for mine safety.

"Three months into the job, this government can take no credit for Queensland's
world-leading safety laws," CFMEU district president Steve Smyth said.

"In fact, they're giving into industry demands to cut 'regulation' around safety.

"The Queensland mining industry would love to remove the right of union safety inspectors to stop production when they see safety breaches at the coalface.

"Let's be clear – this would lead to a rise in fatalities in mines.

"History shows that giving mining company management complete control over safety leads to cost pressures influencing decision-making around safety.

“Mine disasters such as those witnessed at Mt Mulligan, Moura and recently at Pike River in New Zealand are proof of what happens when production targets come before safety. We welcome the decline in fatalities," he said.

"But let's not use that as an excuse to weaken safety standards in Queensland mining."

However, Cripps countered this, stating that “I have instructed the Commissioner for Mine Safety and Health and the QMI to speak directly with mining companies operating in Queensland to urge them to address mine safety incidents.

“Queensland’s mine safety standards have long been considered the best in the world.  However, as new untrained employees enter the industry, employers must be diligent.

“In addition to making direct contact with mining companies regarding the report’s findings, the QMI will also audit and inspect contractor management systems and induction programs.”

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