The mining and resource sector have given a huge amount to the Australian economy and way of life, unfortunately, mining still has one of the highest rates of fatalities and serious injuries for its workers. Despite making significant improvements and changes to workplace health and safety the rates of fatalities and serious injury are still at unacceptable levels for our miners.
Stopping the fatalities
In 2017, the Queensland Government introduced new laws that meant negligent employers and senior executives could be charged with industrial manslaughter and face fines of up to $10 million for businesses and up to 20 years’ jail for individuals, but the mining sector was excluded. In the wake of six deaths in just 12 months in Queensland mines and quarries, there have been renewed calls for the government to extend the laws to encompass the mining sector. Shine Lawyers special counsel Craig Oliver says: “As we’ve seen with six deaths in 12 months, mines and quarries are among the most dangerous workplaces in the state.
“It therefore stands to reason that the resource sector should be included within Queensland’s strengthened industrial manslaughter laws. Too often we see injured miners or relatives of deceased miners come to us due to incidents where commercial interests have been prioritised over safety.
“Locally, we hear a lot of talk about the mining culture and, if it’s to change, senior management must be at risk of prosecution where its failings result in death or serious injury. The deterrent must apply to the resource sector.”
More to protect our miners
Between 2013-14 and 2018-19, there were 475 serious accidents in Queensland mines, including 110 last financial year, which shows how important ongoing scrutiny of workplace health and safety is.
Earlier this year, a safety “reset” for all Queensland mines and quarries was undertaken that saw thousands of employees receive special safety training. An independent review into coal mining deaths was also widened to include other types of mines and quarries as part of the Queensland Government reaction in the wake of the six fatalities.
What risks do miners face?
The main inherent risks associated with working in the mining industry include:
- body stressing, manual handling and musculoskeletal disorders
- slips, trips and falls
- being hit by moving objects or machinery
According to WorkCover Queensland, just 84% of miners who sustain a musculoskeletal injury return to work. This leaves a lot of miners facing an uncertain future if they lose their livelihood with 39% of all workers compensation claims due to muscular stress.
Continued improvements in procedures and checks are the only way forward to ensuring our miners stay safe on the job and can return to their families.
Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: October 14, 2019.