QUEENSLAND mine safety reporting does not reveal the truth about mine safety, according to an independent review commissioned by the Department of Mines and Energy (DME).
The review revealed that the Queensland Mines and Quarries Annual Safety Performance and Health Report encouraged underreporting of safety data and that mining companies were not accurately reporting safety information.
Union allegations caused a furore in May this year, with unions alleging that the industry was reporting false safety figures to the DME. Mines Minister Geoff Wilson commissioned the review to assess the allegations and to examine the content and communication effectiveness of the report. The review found that mines were underreporting safety data, that the report was not respected by the mining community, and that mine personnel were inadequately trained to report accurately.
The review also found that there was a perception that mines will be penalised for reporting too many incidents.
There was little data checking and validation by the DME, contractors and subcontractors were not reporting all accidents and incidents, and DME forms had no real occupational health or disease data.
The review also found that mines may be underreporting Lost Time Injuries (LTI) as Disabling Injuries (DI), or Restricted Work Injuries (RWI). Mines that allocate light duties to personnel with permanent injuries can avoid reporting the injuries as LTIs, under the current reporting practice.
For small mines, the difference of one LTI can make a big change in the related LTI frequency rate, and this is leading to underreporting, according to the review.
“The lack of detail on DI and RWI comes down to the choice of the department over the years to only collect that data at very high level at the end of each month,” Queensland Resources Council (QRC) chief executive Michael Roche told Australian Mining.
“What the reviewers are recommending, very sensibly, is that there should be a capture in detail, incident by incident, for all injuries, not just LTIs,” he said.
Australian Mining attempted to contact Mines Minister Geoff Wilson to discuss the review, but he was unavailable.
“Mining companies have been hiding behind separation packages to avoid reporting severe disabilities for years,” CFMEU district vice-president Stuart Vaccaneo told Australian Mining.
“Everybody who has been involved with people that have been badly injured in the workplace knows that this has been occurring, and for people to say that is hasn’t been occurring is a lie,” he said.
According to the report, there were some instances where workers with permanent disabilities received redundancy or retrenchment payment rather than workers’ compensation.
“The implication is that these transactions occur to somehow mask the true nature of safety data,” Roche said.
“If that is the problem lets get that data fully captured and included, so that, irrespective of how a person leaves a workplace, if there is an injury involved, it is captured,” he said.
According to the report, seven people at one mine were reported to have left the industry in this way over 16 months, and 17 over nine years at another mine.