An official investigation into coal operational safety accepted complaints that resources executives have little regard for workplace safety.
The Queensland parliamentary inquiry into coal mining industry safety recently received 22 submissions about a 2020 explosion that injured five employees at Anglo American’s Grosvenor Coal Mine, 199km southwest of Mackay.
One submission from Robert Heron accused multiple resources managers of being “narcissistic”, and employers of failing to link “catastrophic consequences” with historical data on potential mine areas. This resulted in incidents only being classified as “theoretically dangerous”.
“Managers are often workers that are handpicked, received patronage and move up through the organisations with the blessings of executives that apparently do not give [an expletive] about the workers,” he said according to News Limited.
“From a legal perspective it is a [common] defence to argue that an outcome was unforeseeable.”
A retired paramedic contractor separately accused management of discouraging employees from seeking primary healthcare professionals in order to avoid ‘elevating’ incident reports. He slammed this behaviour as “rancid”, “disgusting” and “bullying”.
“I was appalled at the amount of cover ups by mines’ safety officers to keep injury statistics lower,” the anonymous individual said according to the media outlet.
“I have had mine workers come to me in private crying as their mine supervisor would make sure they did not see a doctor or, if they did, the mine supervisor would make their life hell and the worker would leave.”
At the time of publication only one mine worker attended the inquiry and spoke. Industry veteran Scott Leggett believes part of the problem is a toxic culture of “repercussions” for anyone who speaks up.
“There is an incentive for people not to report incidents or injuries because if they do, this miss out on a monetary value or gifts of some sort,” he said according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“They can turn people on and off at a whim in one hour’s notice. If a labourer or employee starts raising safety concerns, all of a sudden, they are no longer needed.”
Leggett believes more mine bosses should order work stoppages and implement “hard controls”.
“[They should] not [be] reducing controls and watering them down,” he said according to the broadcaster.
Anglo confirmed it has already implemented “all relevant” coal mining board of inquiry recommendations, following the Grosvenor blast.
“Our group-wide elimination of fatalities program covers a wide range of topics, from culture and operational leadership to specific safety tasks. We have also strengthened our focus on psychological safety,” the company said in a submission to the latest inquiry.
“Anglo American has engaged with industry experts to review and amend its safety performance measures and reward structures. We have developed a set of leading indicators that will be adopted.”
The inquiry continues.
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